Partnering with Parents
Everyday Engagement: Making Students and Parents Your Partners in Learning
By Katy Ridnouer
(ASCD, 2011 – Learn more)
Parent relationships can give you nightmares. I am not referring to your biological parents, but rather the parents of students. Despite all the positive parent partnerships that we may have forged, it seems that any kind of negative confrontation leaves a more lasting impression.
Developing a good rapport with my students has always been a strength of mine, but parents, admittedly, are not my area of expertise. When I saw Katy Ridnouer’s book, titled Everyday Engagement: Making Students and Parents Your Partners in Learning, I took it as a sign from the universe that this could be the year I became more pro-active around parent engagement.
Ridnouer’s “aim is to clarify the ‘how’ of engaging both students and parents in the pursuit of learning and achievement” (10). I appreciated how Ridnouer organized her book. She presented the ideas in five parts: The Groundwork for Engagement; Invitations; Interpersonal Responses; Engagement Challenges; and Extensions.
Each of the five parts also includes a brief introduction, which sets the tone for the information that follows. Every chapter provides guiding questions that will be explored. Ridnouer includes compelling research to support her assertions, but he does not rely exclusively on data alone. She also speaks from her own experiences in the classroom by including some anecdotes.
Ideas to implement, work sheets included
There is quite a bit that I will take away from this book. I hope to propose to our building administrators that we utilize some of the resources Ridnouer provides, like the Parent Handout for Involvement information sheet. Instead of only using this information for my classroom, I thought that all the teachers in our building could benefit from knowing which parents are willing to become involved and in what capacity.
I also think her Homework Philosophy and Guidelines sheet is great. It clearly outlines what can be expected from the teacher and for the students, as well as how parents can best support their children and his or her learning at home. I think that communicating to parents how they can help and also what to do when there is an issue would encourage more parents to engage.
Ridnouer’s Talking Points for the Parent-Teacher Conference can be particularly effective for teachers who struggle with how to structure their conferences. Her recommendations are also practical. She isn’t expecting us to be super teachers, but instead makes feasible suggestions like “set a goal of calling three parents each week with positive messages and invitations for involvement” (49).
A couple of caveats
Although much of what Ridnouer suggests is useful, there are some recommendations that I personally would not follow. For example, I would not feel comfortable text messaging parents or going to students’ homes. Ridnouer also suggests setting up workshops for parents and students. While this is a great idea, I am not sure I would categorize this as falling under the responsibility of the teacher. I see it as a more appropriate endeavor for the guidance department.
Ms. Ridnouer’s book does everything she says it will. I closed the book with many strategies and techniques that I can implement in order to invite parents to be vital assets to student learning. One change that I have already made is to send parents periodic updates about what their students are working on and what they should be seeing at home via my parent e-mail distribution list.
In addition to providing new ideas to more veteran teachers, I think that Everyday Engagement: Making Students and Parents Your Partners in Learning would be an especially excellent resource for beginning educators to explore during their teacher induction program.
Nicole Warchol is a 7th grade language arts teacher and a teacher consultant for the Kean University National Writing Project. She lives in New Jersey with Rocco, her five-year old Rottweiler-German Shepherd. She is a voracious reader, who occasionally writes poetry. Ms. Warchol can be found on Twitter @MsNWarchol and on her blog at www.thecraziestbooklady.wordpress.com