It’s rare that I read an article and have a complete “aha, yes! moment”.  Larry Ferlazzo’s article entitled “Involvement or Engagement” did exactly that.  Parental Engagement has become a trendy buzz word that has circled the education world for the last several years as something each teacher and school should be implementing.  But what does it mean?  Involvement and Engagement have become synonymous, and yet they mean very different things. In my many years in the education field, I know this to be true.  But finding a way to articulate it, well that is a bit of a challenge.  In the dictionary, you can find “involve is "to enfold or envelope," whereas one of the meanings of engage is "to come together and interlock." Thus, involvement implies doing to; in contrast, engagement implies doing with.”  But how does that directly relate to the education field?  In coming across this article- I got to this paragraph…. and there it was.  My “Yes; exactly!” moment.

"A school striving for family involvement often leads with its mouth—identifying projects, needs, and goals and then telling parents how they can contribute. A school striving for parent engagement, on the other hand, tends to lead with its ears—listening to what parents think, dream, and worry about. The goal of family engagement is not to serve clients but to gain partners."

As educators, the time it takes to develop active engagement in parents and gain partners is extensive.  And frankly, between lesson planning, grading, meetings, and actually teaching, time just runs out.  We end up settling for parent involvement because of time constraints, exhaustion, and actually wanting to spend time with our own families.  Don’t get me wrong.  Settling for parent involvement isn’t bad.  “Almost all the research says that any kind of increased parent interest and support of students can help. But almost all the research also says that family engagement can produce even better results—for students, for families, for schools, and for their communities” (Ferlazzo & Hammond, 2009).  Every teacher in the world wants this for their school community.  It is just figuring out how to get there without burning yourself out in the process.

The article goes on to talk about programs that actually do home visits with their enrolled families.  That way you get a better sense of what is happening in your students’ lives, what resources they have, etc.  It gives you a unique opportunity to have a dialogue with parents and truly listen to their wants and needs in an environment they feel comfortable in.  Being able to visit everyone’s homes would be amazing.  But in most districts, it just isn’t feasible.  So how can you effectively listen, support, and build a partnership with your families in an engaging way that still allows you time to plan, grade and teach?

The answer is you need help.  Districts and schools are hiring staff to completely focusBloomz is the new free app helping teachers better communicate with parents on boosting their parental engagement.  Teachers are looking for ways to help make their jobs easier.  There are so many options out there for educators even that can become overwhelming.  Bloomz beats out the competition when it comes to parent engagement.  It is intuitive, time saving, and allows for that two way communication to start building those parent partners.

Here is something for you to think about- “Family involvement and engagement are not mutually exclusive; most schools pursue both. But when you think about your school's efforts, you'll probably see a clear direction. Does your school tend toward doing to or doing with families? Does the staff do more talking or more listening? Is the emphasis on one-way communication or on two-way conversation?”  And what do you want to do about it?

To learn more on how Bloomz can help with parental engagement, and how to sign up for your free account, click here.

To read “Involvement or Engagement” in its entirety, click here.

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