Monday, February 9, 2009

Parents: Wanted? Or not?

Today is National African American Parent Involvement Day, founded by Ann Arbor's own Roberto Clemente principal, Joe Dulin.
Also, tomorrow is the last day to file for the school board election. (What are you waiting for?)

Both of which got me thinking: do the schools really want parent involvement? (My friend, whose child is struggling, thinks that the answer is clearly no.)

I feel ambivalent about NAAPID. On the one hand, it recognizes that parents need to make special efforts to be involved in the schools, and that African American kids nationally have higher suspension rates, lower graduation rates, etc. And parent involvement does make a difference. On the other hand, a day? a coffee hour? an assembly? Really? That is not enough. But maybe it will give some parents a kick start, the courage to talk to some teachers, or the principal.

Parents are highly sought after for fundraising. They are also given a few opportunities to serve on larger committees (although it seems to me that once you get beyond the school site, it is hard to find out what they are). But are parents really wanted for "involvement?" For working with teachers, counselors, principals? Even when you disagree with said teachers, counselors, and principals? Especially as you get into higher grades, it seems to me, not so much.

Which is why it was such a pleasant, pleasant surprise to get a handout, within the first couple of weeks of school, from a high school teacher, that a) explained what they would be doing in the coming months, and had these precious words: "Parents, you are welcome in my classroom anytime. (Chocolate is also welcome.)" And then a note--just kidding about the chocolate. I may never go, but I am glad that I was invited.

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