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Conference Report

Engaged Communities for the Future ...

John Haydon - Sydney Archdiocese

The focus of this conference was Engaged Communities for the Future. The keynote speaker was Dr. Debbie Pushor from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada.

In her program of research, Debbie has engaged in narrative inquiries into parent knowledge and into parent engagement and leadership. In her undergraduate and graduate teaching, Debbie makes central an often absent or underrepresented conversation about the positioning of parents in relation to school landscapes.

Debbie, in collaboration with the Parent Engagement Collaborative (a cohort of graduate students), published a book entitled, Portals of Promise: Transforming Beliefs and Practices through a Curriculum of Parents (Sense Publishers, 2013). A second book, Living as MapmakersCharting a Course with Children Guided by Parent Knowledge (Sense Publishers, 2015) was co-written with the Parent Engagement Collaborative II, and builds from and extends this earlier work. Currently, Debbie and the Parent Engagement Collaborative III are creating a video series for parents and educators to present concepts from the two books in a different form.

Key Points

·      When you ask parents what hopes and dreams they have for their child, normally, the response is never, ‘to have top marks’ or ‘be top of the class’. It’s about learning, friends, happiness and feelings of self worth.

·       What is Parent Engagement? True parent engagement is when it draws on what you know as a parent.

o   Schools need to draw upon this knowledge

o   We need parent knowledge

o   Invite parent voices

o   Honour the capacity of parents

·       Parent engagement is not about being a teacher at home. Its about being engaged as a family

Parent Engagement

·         Relationship of shared decision making and reciprocity

·         Focus on teaching and learning

·         Happens on both the school and home landscape

·         Ensures everyone is strengthened through their engagement

Parent Involvement

·         Serves the school or the teachers agenda

·         Requires someone to do a job

·         Its on the school landscape

Looking Forward

·         When you meet families at their level of need you tend not to have disengagement

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Living in the Space of Transformation

Rebecca Hill, Executive Officer, Wollongong Parent Forum

The keynote presenter at the Qld P&F Biennial Parent Conference in Rockhampton, Dr Debbie Pushor, provided a wonderful illumination of the potential significance of parent knowledge and engagement in the school landscape. She encouraged both parents and educators to “lie in the area of transformation” (Soueif, 1999,pp65-66) and consider different models, practices and language of parent engagement.

Debbie’s presentation clearly distinguished between parent involvement and parent engagement as well as placing the “schooling” of children in the context of their life long education – an education process in which parent knowledge needs to be sought and respected. Parent knowledge was define as knowledge learnt from nurturing a child in the complex act of childrearing and in the complex context of a home and family. Debbie emphasised that this knowledge should be given due consideration in conjunction with the specific teacher knowledge of curriculum and planning, school policies and process. Both parties are holders of different knowledge which, when brought together in a relationship of respect for each other, enhances a child’s learning and wellbeing.

With examples from her work in Canadian schools Debbie provided thought provokers for educators and parents alike to consider new models, new practices and a new language by which parent knowledge is considered alongside teacher knowledge in the school context.

Discussions evolving from Debbie’s presentation highlighted some key descriptors of parent engagement as:

  • honouring parents hopes and dreams;

  • inviting parent “voices”;

  • being based on parent’s strengths;

  • honouring the capacity of parents to be good parents;

  • engaging parents as “parents” not teachers;

  • creating a relationship of shared decision-making and reciprocity;

  • focussing on teaching and learning;

  • happening on both the school and the home landscape; and

  • ensuring everyone is strengthened through the engagement.

Barriers to engagement were also explored and included:

  • structure of schools not allowing for strategic and intentional engagement of parents;

  • assumptions by both parents and schools;

  • lack of invitation;

  • capacity/confidence of parents; and

  • lack of time and access.

The conference was very worthwhile and provided great material for educators and parents to begin the discussion around new models for parent engagement.

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Beyond the Lamington Drive …   

Clare Placek - Parent Rep. Diocese of Wollongong

As a parent, we want nothing but the best for our children. It’s important to us that our children are given the best opportunity to fulfill their hopes and dreams. As parents, we also know that we are the #1 educator in our children’s lives.

We use our ‘parent knowledge’ and draw on the understanding that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to raising happy and healthy kids. Not only that, there is a wealth of research telling us our children are more likely to be successful when we are engaged in their education.

I was fortunate enough to spend some time in Rockhampton listening to Debbie Pushor, a Canadian Professor and world-class leader in engaging parents in a circle of shared responsibility in their child’s education. 

Thought provoking and empowering, Debbie makes the distinction of parent involvement vs parent engagement. 

Parent engagement honours parents’ hopes and dreams by inviting us to have our voices heard. It’s a relationship of shared decision-making and reciprocity that happens on both the school and home landscapes.
Parent engagement gives a sense of support and standards in our children’s minds. A relationship between parent, child, school and the greater community that is authentic, valued and one that produces the strongest impact on our children’s achievements.  

I have come away feeling empowered and  energised

Engaged in our child's education, we can empower them to take control of their decisions, make good choices,set learning and wellbeing goals and put action plans
in place to achieve these goals. Underpinned by strong gospel values, we can empower our children to consider others, collaborate effectively and efficiently whilst taking care of themselves in head, heart, body and soul. All in all, as an engaged parent , together with teachers, we help set our children up for success with an aim of helping them not only survive in the 21st Century - but thrive. 

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