Working within education systems for many years has shown us just how important it is to support families along their child’s path to and through school. What makes this so challenging is that no two paths are exactly the same.
To learn more about each individual’s path, educators have begun to embrace family engagement as a strategic component of teaching and learning. There are many tools that can be leveraged to help educators learn more about the unique factors in each student’s experience—including the AllHere Virtual Assistant (AVA)—but there are also many barriers.
For example, mass market family engagement efforts can take on an assimilation function that further marginalizes non-dominant families, those whose race, class, language, or life experiences makes them feel that they are not part of the mainstream school culture.
One of the leading voices in the field, Karen L. Mapp, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, recently co-authored a new report that issues a call to action to break down these barriers so each individual home-school partnership is as effective as possible.
The report, “Embracing a New Normal: Toward a More Liberatory Approach to Family Engagement,” calls “for the PreK–12 sector to walk through the door opened by COVID-19 and the antiracist movement and address the often-ignored and unspoken dynamics that prevent the cultivation of effective partnerships between families and educators. We call on the sector to seize this opportunity to move toward a family engagement practice that is liberatory, solidarity-driven, and equity-focused.”
Mapp has always been a champion of relationships built on mutual trust and respect. In “Embracing a New Normal,” she and co-author Eyal Bergman encourage educators to self-reflect on whether their approach to family engagement is truly:
– Liberatory and free of dominance by the educational system.
– Solidarity-driven in union and fellowship with families and students.
– Equity-focused to ensure it is fair and just for all involved.
In a forum about the elevating family-school partnerships that aired online shortly after the report’s release, Mapp said the COVID-19 pandemic had created a robust opportunity for reimagining family engagement because many educators who had been resistant to partnering with families were thrust into a position where they needed to have trusting relationships with families to ensure student success.
In their report, Mapp and Bergman express optimism that current federal funding opportunities related to the COVID-19 pandemic offer schools the resources to invest in new approaches to family engagement. It’s a refreshing invitation for schools to examine their current status when it comes to family engagement—knowing that it may look different than it did a couple of years ago—and explore strategies for moving toward their goals for true partnerships along students’ path to and through school.
Check out part II of this blog post here.