Family Schools Partnership

Last week, I was privileged to attend the ARACY Conference held here in Melbourne on Parent Engagement. 600 people from around the world came together united in their beliefs, knowledge, experience and their desire to learn more about the importance of family engagement in learning.

We talk of a Family School Partnership here in the Western Port Cluster and now I want to share with you some really important thoughts on Family Engagement. This week, further to the Conference I also spent a day with Dr Debbie Pushor, a Canadian professor of Curriculum Studies who specialises in parent engagement. She is also very passionate about the work and I loved how she measured this work through the eyes of motherhood and her own three sons' experience of school.

Debbie talked about Funds of Knowledge. I have mentioned this phrase before in newsletters and it is simply the experiences that anyone has due to their life circumstance.

Everybody possesses funds of knowledge. Within our funds of knowledge we all possess personal and practical knowledge which is self-explanatory and then many of us also possess professional or craft knowledge. Craft knowledge or professional knowledge as the name suggests describes things we can do...ride a bike, drive a car, bake a cake, build a house, teach a class, juggle and so much more.

Parent knowledge is what a parent knows about their child. When a baby is born, a mother is also born and that relationship is the most important to the child. Fathers of course have a very important role and their father knowledge along with the mother knowledge helps build parent knowledge. This knowledge can only be known by a parent through their intimate and unique relationship with their child.

What an extraordinary resource that schools can use to help educate the child. Schools need to recognise that parents bring so much knowledge about their child and this information needs to be shared and respected by your child's teacher. It makes sense that this can help the teacher know the child. How we share that information is the challenge that we need to address and this can occur I believe at both the primary and secondary level. It will just look different at the primary and secondary levels and there were lots of strategies given to seek and share this knowledge. I really like how schools follow the philosophy of enrolling a family, not just a child. This values the parent knowledge.

Finally there is teacher knowledge . The experiences and skills that a teacher brings to the classroom and of course this will look different for every teacher. It may be expertise in a particular subject or a collective of subject areas. It also calls on their demonstration of knowledge of classroom content, ability to teach children in an effective and interesting way, their ability to maintain class control and build respectful relationships with their children and families to name a few.

Here’s for the big one...Parent Engagement occurs when parent knowledge and teacher knowledge work together. This is where 40 years of research supports positive outcomes and benefits for the child emotionally, socially and intellectually when parent engagement occurs. What this looks like and how it is achieved is the challenge facing schools and parents.