Mike, my name is Dr. Jacqueline McGilp spelled J-A-C-Q-U-E-L-I-N-E McGilp M-C-G-I-L-P. I’m coordinator of the Center of Lifelong Learning at Australian Catholic University.
I think the important thing is that families respect the teaching profession today. That they understand the teachers have the welfare of students in heart and that learning of every student is important to teachers. Families can help us by stating their expectations for the school and for their students. But it’s really important that the expectations are stated realistically and also honestly. I think it’s important that families not predict their achievement or non-achievement on the children. I think parents can help us by stating or ensuring that they emphasize that every child in a family is important and every child in each family is also important. You know I like the saying ‘you are precious in my eyes, honored, and I love you.’ If we can say that of every teacher, every child, every parent then I think we can really build the home school connections.
I think the one thing about schools as social organizations is to realize that they are places of relationships. They are places where we learn together. They are places where we solve problems together. And as a social organization we need to understand that the social ills of society do impact upon schools. And therefore teachers and parents need to work together to build the best world for our children. I think it’s important to the social organization that we are seen as a community of practice. By that I mean schools are places where teachers learn, where students learn and where parents learn. We actually learn together. Each one is a learner.
We as teachers have a responsibility to let parents know or to show parents how their children are learning. Children have great capabilities and in the school they express them really well. I think it’s important that we let know parents know how they’re taught and learn. What are the learning styles that are important for each child. That we try to involve in developing the multiple intelligences of their children. I think it’s also important that we inform children, uh sorry, inform parents of what children can do but listen to parents telling us how they see their children learning. If we have an issue in the school that needs to be resolved. I think we work with parents to say, ‘how can we actually develop the capabilities of children?’ If parents have an issue at home, do they call on us to help them solve it. And I think today in developing the learning capability of children it’s important that we listen to what coming out your nescar (sp) we try to get children to learn, to know, to gain knowledge and skills, to work together, and also to be themselves.
I think it is important that we know the parents. We know the parents expertise. We know the parents’ occupations, their interests, their desires and hopes. Now I make that statement because a parent who has, who is occupied in say a law firm, they can help us by giving that expertise to the school. But they also may not want to work in that area. They may be gardeners who want to share that expertise. Or then you have a desire for learning. And if we see someone who has an enthusiasm and a desire for learning then I think children also can grow in their learning capacity. One thing that’s really important is in trying to identify the parents’ skills for schools that we also identify to what degree our teachers want parents to be involved in schools. We also need to understand and search out what are the training opportunities for te um parents so that they can contribute to our schools whether they have expertise or whether they develop expertise for learning with their children.
I think the first that we do when we’re sharing intellectual authority for children’s learning is we invite parents to actually tell us how their children learn at home and how they learn in the wider community. I think together that we have to search to find out what it is that energizes, vitalizes and nourishes a child’s learning. I think in designing the curriculum when a teacher sets activities within the classroom, I think those activities have to be extended to, ‘how can we develop this in the home and in the wider community?’ Otherwise we have to ask the question, ‘why are we teaching this at school.?’ If it has not impact for family, if it has not impact for the wider community.
I think the most important thing is that we establish shared values. In bringing children in to school we have a mission and a vision for a school. If the parents and teachers can share that then I think we actually are helping parents teach their children. We have to introduce parents to what the curriculum is in the school What they can expect from it and what learning outcomes are expected from the children. I think it’s important that we allow parents to actually observe what is happening in the classroom and let the children decide when they want their parents to see what they’re actually learning. I think it’s really important that we dialogue about what helps learning and what is difficult for children also what is difficult for teachers in dealing with the learning of children at different levels.
It’s really important that we work for congruence between what the parents expect and what the teachers expect. If we aren’t working together I think children can sense conflict and they wonder why a teacher is saying one thing and a parent is saying another. I think that it’s really important that we as teacher listen to what families are saying and we understand the values that um families are actually promoting. Because as teachers and as parents we have to set the building blocks for children, the stepping stones for their learning. And therefore, it’s important that we’re both emphasizing the same values. In order to emphasize the same values I think we need to talk to each other. Know what is important for the family and know what is important for the school at particular times in children’s lives.
I think we must understand that the classroom is a place of interaction. A classroom is a place where children have to learn. If we need to clarify the values, we need to state to parents what are we working with a with children at this time. When we set an activity, a cognitive activity it is really important that we stress the social skill as well. Is it one of listening to another? Is it one of showing respect for another? I think in setting the values of the classroom we need to negotiate with both the students and the parents but particularly with the students. What is important for them to learn at this particular time. I think one of the ways we can share this with parents is to actually tell in our newsletters ‘this is what we’re emphasizing this week, and this is why we are emphasizing it.’ And then if there are greater issues at open forums we discuss what are the values within the classroom that we are promoting.
I think to establish and maintain home/school connections we need to start early. We need to involve parents in little ways. But we need to involve them continually so that they can see their children actually progressing. We can do that by collaborative projects. But I think the school has a responsibility to evaluate what they do. What is it that is promoting the relationship between home and school? What is it that we are doing that adds meaning for the students, meaning for the parent and meaning for the teachers by our collaboration.
I think we can create collaborative climates by being open to new ideas and suggestions, by understanding the other point of view, by working together. Look there are times when we can have family days, we can have sports days. If we are in a school that promotes religion then we can have prayer services together. Here in Victoria, the state in which I live, we actually have a VIC parenting project. Now we can become a VIC parenting school. What does that mean? It means this, that we create a climate where parents are welcome in the school It’s a friendly environment for parents. That we have a resource room where parents can actually get books that they can learn about what children are doing and the development of children. That we expose parents to the services available with um to them to help their children. And also in a VIC parenting school teachers are actually learning how to interact with parents. So the more open we are, the more friendly we are, the more our school becomes a community school where parents are welcome and we’re working together the better it will be for children’s learning. So I think we have to create very special collaborative climates and keep searching for ways to do this.
I think the first thing that is to understand that it is really important. To also understand that the home can have more influence on the child than the school. And I think the most important thing also is to understand that yes, we can work together. We can build connections.
I think the first thing is to let parents observe what we actually do, then to invite parents to be advocates of the school. You know, to really go out there and say ‘I believe in what this school is doing.’ And then in different ways to invite parents to actually share their expertise.
I think the first le, lesson we learned was that many families thought they had never been asked to be a part of the school community. Now while that may not be true, we haven’t touched the hearts of parents to actually contribute. I’d like to say a little about the Pinaco Project. In it we tried to expose children to the arts. We wanted parental involvement in children’s artistic learning. So we were emphasizing painting, poetry, music, dance and drama. What we did first of all was to work in the school scene. We invited a professional from outside, an artist to come and share their work with the children. Having done that we felt we were justified in also then asking a parent who is an artist to come and share their work. So that was the second component. Then we looked at parents who didn’t have qualifications in the arts but in fact had a particular skill. For instance, a father who is very good at drawing at cartoons came in and shared that expertise with children. Our next point was to say, ‘what parents are interested in what children are doing and have a desire to learn?’ So we had parents who wanted to actually, or had a desire to learn painting of some kind. So what we did, we produced a training program where parents could learn something like modeling and then teach that to a group of children in the classroom and also in the playground. Involving, in involving parents in schools we also thought that par, some parents wanted to be organizers to help us to do the work in schools but not to teach. So we invited them to do that. Another component was that we invited parents to be spectators to come and see what we were doing, to enjoy being in the classroom, to encourage the children to say, ‘isn’t that great work? Isn’t that a lovely color that you’re actually using?’ Or ‘why are you using that?’ We also encouraged parents to be audience studies (not sure on the term used) we wanted them to know about what we were doing in the school even though they couldn’t come into the school and help. So the first thing we did in the Pinaco Project was to actually work in the school. Then we decided we would work in the home. So two nights a week we actually taught in the homes and children went and sketched in the homes, or sketched did sketches that fitted in with their poetry etcetera. And we did that for each one of the cycles: painting, poetry, music, drama and dance. Each month we also had an excursion to the wider community. You might ask ‘why was the school wanting to involve the children in the arts, in the school, the home and the wider community. I think because we need to realize that there are children in the school who are very good academically and therefore they get on. There are children who are good at sport and they also get on. But where are the interests developed of other children. So instead of them going to the sports field on a Saturday, they actually went out into the gully and painted. So we tried to advance the home / school connection by teaching in the home, teaching in the school and teaching in the wider community. And I think when we involve parents in different settings they actually see that the school is valuing learning. What did we learn from that? We certainly learned that some parents accepted the invitation to be part of the school. An invitation where they had before said ‘no, they did not receive it.’ We learned that with the different modes of participation that parents have great skills that can actually be used by the school. That those skills are many and varied. We also learned that teachers, parents and children can enjoy being together even at nights, even at the weekends on excursions. But we also learned that parents can challenge the school system. That in fact, by involving parents we can raise the standard of learning and that’s really important. What we also learned is that we can turn around the number of people who in are involved in schools. Before the Pinaco Project we had 48 percent of our parents involved in children’s learning. By the time we finished the project one year later we had 84 percent of parents involved. Now I believe it doesn’t matter whether a project runs for a week, two weeks, a year or two years. It’s the actual enthusiasm that takes place and the opportunity for students (? Not sure on word) to learn in different ways that is important.
I think my own soap box is one of creativity. I believe that by creativity we can actually expand the mind, we can search the soul, we can find the interests of children. I think it’s through creativity that learning takes place. It is through creativity that children are faced with a challenge. Every child has a right to learn and therefore I think that we as teachers must find creative means to help them learn. I think we have a responsibility to make sure that whatever we do with children is interesting and therefore moves them forward in their actual learning. You know there’s an Africa saying that says, ‘it takes a whole village to build a child or to help a child learn.’ I believe that it takes a lot of creativity to move the mind of a child and to work with them to become who they’re meant to be. I think that we as teachers and parents have to witness to creativity so that children may learn that it’s creativity that makes learning, a lifelong learning mode of learning for each one of us. Thank you.
Thank you, Julie.