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Parent Participation

Parent Partnerships
Instead of the traditional approach to school-parent relationships in which the school is designated as the expert and tells parents what to do, Reggio Emilia principles suggest that schools engage parents in a diologue thorough which the parents' own perspectives, values, goals, interests, and strengths emerge. This new relationship is informed by an image of the parent as competent, rich in ideas, and interested in communicating with staff and other parents.

Once the image of the parent is embraced, there are many ways in which parents can contribute to creating an environment where the image of the child is celebrated. The following are but a few ways in which parents can be invited to become partners in their child's learning. 

Hopes and Dreams Interview
Prior to the beginning of the school year or during the first month of school parents, with their child, are invited to come to school for a "Hopes and Dreams" interview. There are three facets to the interview
  • The Hopes and Dreams interview in which parents are invited to share their hopes and dreams for their child as the teacher takes notes and a picture of parents and child.
  • The teacher's explanation of the school's approach to education.
  • Questions that teachers ask to update the information required by the program
     In the "Hopes and Dreams" interview, the teacher asks the parent(s):
  • What are your hopes and dreams for our child in the future? or
  • What kind of person do you want your child to be when he/she grows up?
     In subsequent years the questions the teacher asks the parent(s) changes. For example:
  • What is your family's favorite activity?
  • What was your favorite activity as a child?
  • What was your favorite story as a child?
As soon as possible after the home visit, the parents' hopes and dreams statements, along with the parent-child photographs and children's drawings based on the photographs, are mounted for display in or near each classroom. The display establishes the presence of each family in the school and is a way for parents' voices to be heard.

The advantages of the "Hopes and Dreams" interview are several:
  • It starts the diologue between teacher and parents in a way that is comfortable, thought provoking, and highly meaningful to the parent.
  • The interview communicates the teacher's belief in the parents as partners in diologue.
  • It casts the discussion of goals for the child in a frame that is much broader than the ABCs.
  • The parent's contribution to the diologue broadens the teacher's framework for thinking about goals for the child.
  • The exchanges that take place in the interview serve to strengthen both teachers' and parents' commitments to developmental goals for the child.
  • Finally, it provides teachers with a way to represent parents' voices in the school.

Daily/Weekly Communication
It is important to take time to speak with parents when they drop off or pick up their child each day. Making parents feel welcome, will encourage those parents who may be reluctant to speak with the teacher more open to discussion. Possibly having a space just outside or in the classroom where parents can sit and look at children's work is recommended. Student's portfolios could reside there. 

Not all parents come to school every day so using an reflection book (agenda) to inform parents of their child's activities, classroom needs and home support. The reflection book is used for two-way communication between parents and school.

Teachers are also encouraged to use email and to develop a website to communicate with parents.

Student Led Conferences / Portfolio Review
Once or twice a year parents are invited to listen to their child talk/show about their learning. This could take the form as a Learning Journey - where the child leads the patent(s) through the stages of an in-depth study. Stations that reflect aspects of the program (literacy, math, PE, the arts, etc.) can be set up and students lead parents through activities at each station. Part of the student led conference is the review of a student's portfolio...this is a celebration of the student's growth and accomplishments over the year. For more information you can download guidelines for Student Led Conferences and Portfolios 

Monthly Community Discussions
Monthly Community discussions are meant to provide a place for parents and staff to come together, share perspectives, learn from one-another, and deepen their understanding about the program (Reggio, Literacy, PYP).  It is conducted by teachers, the principal,and the  PYP Coordinator and consists of a brief talk about the topic, followed by activities and or discussion. 

The
The meeting format generally includes:
  • A short presentation about a chosen topic (PYP, Literacy, Reggio) by teachers, the principal,and/or  the  PYP Coordinator
  • Discussion of presentation
  • Presentation of children's work (PYP, Literacy, Reggio)
  • Whole group diologue
The meeting should include:
  • Prior information about the topic that is sent home before hand
  • Try to provide translators
  • Food/snacks is always welcome at the meeting
  • Appoint a "parent liaison" who will take notes and report about the meeting in a school newsletter and at the next meeting
Some topics for discussion are:
  • Image of the child and or image of the parent
  • How we teach emergent curriculum
  • How we observe/listen - reflect - respond
  • How we plan - collaborate - document (reflect - action - reflect...)
  • Traditional vs. Reggio inspired approach or PYP or workshop approach
  • Review a student project
  • Review a Unit of Inquiry
  • Demonstrate a workshop lesson
  • What does inquiry-based learning look like?
  • Explain reporting, documentation, portfolios
  • Talk about "agency"
  • Discuss proficient learner stategies
  • Discuss the classroom being an additional teacher
Involving Parents in Children's In-depth Studies
Involving parents in children's in-depth studies will allow them to understand the program better, transfer what they learn to a home setting and become more supportive of the program. It means that parents will need to be "taught" how to interact with the children, ask questions, observe, and listen.The challenge for the teacher in these situations is to engage parents in ways that encourage them to foster the children's sense of agency.

Parents Collaborating With teachers in the Classroom and on Field Trips
The challenge for the teacher in these situations is to engage parents in ways that encourage them to foster the children's sense of agency. Such parent collaborations could include:
  • Documenting children's activities by taking photos or videotaping.
  • Reading books with children
  • Participating with the teachers in the planning and construction of display panels. 

***The 

content for this post was taken from: We Are All Explorers: Learning and Teaching with Reggio Principles in an Urban Setting.  

Chapter 9