Different culture: Different parent participation

By Gloria Freeman

For decades, it has been generally agreed upon that parent participation in a child’s education is extremely important.

According an article published by the Center for Public Education, “It may be one of the least controversial statements in American education: Parent involvement can make a difference in a child’s education. Two-thirds of teachers surveyed believed that their students would perform better in school if their parents were more involved in their child’s education, while 72 percent of parents say children of uninvolved parents sometimes ‘fall through the cracks’ in schools.”

However, the article goes on to say, “The conflict can come, though, on how to create that involvement, and whether all involved feel the particular activities are worthwhile.”

Scholars at NYU have raised the notion that parent participation in schools can go beyond sitting in the classroom with their child or serving as a chaperone on a school field trip.
The academics at NYU report, “Research shows that children who receive certain types of racial socialization messages from their parents benefit academically. More specifically, when parents emphasize enhancing their child’s self-worth (e.g., telling their children they are special no matter what anyone says), and express egalitarian messages (e.g., messages regarding racial equality and coexistence), their children are more likely to experience higher levels of academic curiosity and persist more on difficult school tasks.”

NYU researchers surmise that messages from parents at home promoting self-worth and that support egalitarian principles give Black children a sense of safety and equality and motivates children to shine in the classroom and adventurously explore the world.

In addition to equipping children with constant messages of the importance of self-worth, researchers also point to the importance of parents engulfing their children in a sea of Black history and cultural traditions.

We understand there are many different ways parents can participate in a child’s education, both in and out of the classroom. We are working vigorously to establish a new and innovative paradigm of parent participation that takes in the cultural mores, traditions and methods of families from diverse backgrounds. We understand that unless we develop more ways in which we honor parent participation practices that may be non-traditional, but nonetheless, effective, we run the risk of both shaming whole groups of parents, along with missing the boat on another generation of well-meaning parents who indeed are participating in their child’s education, just differently than what has traditionally been recognized as effective parent participation in historically monolithic-oriented academic settings.

As educators, it is an exciting time to meet parents where they are, encourage them to participate in their children’s education in natural and authentic ways, and celebrate the differing ways we can equip our young people to be successful in school and the world. By parents and educators working together, we can equip our children with the unvarnished history of our past, help them navigate the challenges and opportunities of today, and celebrate the invitation to seize the day for themselves and their fellow humans tomorrow.
All parent contributions matter.

Gloria Freeman is President/CEO of Olu’s Center, an intergenerational childcare and senior day program, and can be reached at gfreeman@olu’

August 18, 2016
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