I was an educator in multiple settings before becoming a parent and have experienced family engagement on both ends of the spectrum. I have found myself focused on the same thing from either position: communication.
As a classroom teacher, it was all about how to keep families interested and interacting with their child’s school experience. This includes communication about what is happening in the classroom and with each individual child as well as providing opportunities to come into the school and classroom and experience the learning. Now, as a parent, it is still about communication: having meaningful connections with my children’s teachers and forming a united bond.
As I now move my own career path ahead and become an educational advocate and consultant for families, family engagement will continue to include that crucial communication piece. In my new role, I act as a bridge between family and school while strengthening families’ abilities to partner together in their children’s learning.
What I have learned through all my experiences was solidified during my participation in FCSN’s Parent Consultant Training Institute: all families have different exposure and experience with engagement. Some may fear communication with the school based on prior experiences. Some may be excited to be involved, but are just unaware of the appropriate or available avenues. Still others may feel comfortable with the schools, but still need help in communicating the needs of their child.
So, what is family engagement? In its most simple and complex form, it is communication. Being able to have clear and approachable conversations between school and families is the best way for students to get the supports they need to thrive.
Jennifer Gerofsky is an educational advocate and consultant for families and schools, focused on students with social-emotional learning (SEL) needs and educational needs but happy and able to support all needs. She has 15 years of classroom teaching background and is a certified Elementary Education and Special Education teacher. She and her husband have two children, and Jen is also currently going through the SEL needs experience with her older child, the school, and outside testing.