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In BC, we recently had a long weekend to celebrate Family Day and in that spirit, I went to our cabin with my two brothers and their wives for a winter getaway. Both of my brothers happen to be glaziers so while we were there, I took advantage of their skill set and had a window replaced that had been cracked for a while. I am the type of person who likes to learn new things so I stood around while they practiced their trade and during this time, was reminded of something I already knew ... I know nothing about how to change a window pane. And more specifically, as they talked to each other about getting the job done, I realized there was a lot of lingo they used that was specific to their craft and left me completely out of the conversation. So as a tribute to one of my favourite sitcoms growing up, "Different Strokes" I finally chimed in with "What you talking 'bout Willis." Their response was first laughter, and then a request to get out of their way and make them some lunch.
I share this because for me, there was an immediate connection to what we can be guilty of in education quite often. That it, we have many many expressions that are well known by those of us in the field, but can sound like another language to anyone who does not have experience inside a school, including parents. I mean just the acronyms alone are hard to keep up! IEP, PLO, ADD, PBL, ... it's enough to make any parent scream OMG! And then we throw in a variety of different assessment terms such as "meeting expectations", "satisfactory" or the "number three," it's no wonder parents often look quite dumbfounded when we are trying to explain their child's progress to them.
I would suggest that we are at a time in BC education when communication with parents and authentic engagement of them in the learning process of their children is crucial. We have districts exploring the notion that letter grades may be antiquated and a better reporting process is possible. We have a new curriculum that is shifting towards big ideas as oppose to what we are used to in the past. Teachers are tapping into innovative learning strategies such as inquiry/passion based learning while connecting with a global world that technology has made quite small. And all the while, parents are trying to keep up to ensure that their child experiences success when they graduate from the education system.
As educators, we need to be sure we are communicating WITH parents and not AT them. Check out this great post by Chris Wejr on this topic). It is far too important not to have them be a part of learning process of a child in a meaning, purposeful way. Educating a child is not like changing a piece of glass. When my brothers begin to use the language of their trade, I don't need to necessarily understand what they are saying. I can go make a sandwich, come back, and have a new window installed at the cabin. But when it comes to learning, research and experience is very clear ... parents cannot send their child to school, go make a sandwich and have an educated child at the end of the day. They are an integral part of that process. So as educators, we need to be sure we take the time to include parents in the conversations, and explain the language we use.
I would love to hear about any structural or systematic processes schools are using to help parents understand edu-speak. I've never been a believer of "dumbing things down" when talking to parents, but I wonder what school-wide processes would help that process be more effective.