Parent-Teacher Collaboration

Can parents help play the role of teacher? Can teachers help play the role of parent? Can both happen at the same time? These are some of the questions that were explored during our third session of the “Empowering Student Changemakers” series on Skilled.Space.

I started our discussion with a quote I heard during a podcast interview with author Julie Lythcott-Haims–“We’ve jettisoned the stuff of life out the window, and we shouldn’t be surprised that we graduate people with high GPAs who cannot do much for themselves”. This prompted some interesting sharing about the role of partnering with parents to ensure that we are raising young people who are well-rounded in the skills they will need to succeed as adults.

Celeste, an educator from Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi shared, “Teachers have caregiving roles as much as any parent”. And Georgina, an educator with international experience now based in the UK added “Learn things about what is happening at home to support students in school”. This back and forth helped guide the conversation towards the idea of effective partnering with parents. We began to chip away at the dichotomy of “teachers are responsible for this” and “parents are responsible for that”. What emerged instead is “we are in this together”.

These ideas are supported by research. John Hattie in his expansive meta-analysis of 138 influences that are related to learning outcomes, identified “parental involvement” as playing a key role in supporting student learning.1 In addition, teacher-student relationships play an important role as well. When we combine these two we can see the importance of effective partnering to ensure students have the skills to be facilitators of change in their world.

As the conversation continued, Kiki from New York shared her personal experience with her kids. She gives them agency in a number of small decisions to empower them to be independent thinkers and problem solvers. From tying their own shoes, to deciding what backpack to buy, to creating routines around homework–all of these actions help support kids that are able to “own the outcome of their education”.

This is a great description of what a student changemaker can be, one who owns the outcome of their education. In education, we are exploring ways to move away from the passive role of the student to one of an active participant. We have a better chance of nurturing these skills in students when parents and teachers are working in collaboration. 

The conversation had a surprise coda when the author of “How to Raise an Adult” Julie Lythcott-Haims joined in to take a few questions and show her gratitude. In this process, Julie offered this gem, “undermining of agency is an undermining of mental health”. I took this as an endorsement of the work that this group of educators has been engaging in. As the converation came to an end I felt confident that we are addressing issues that are at the heart of supporting students as changemakers.