I’ll admit it. I get into far too many Twitter fights where someone asks me what right I have being involved in education policy or even talking education and classroom instruction, having never been a teacher myself. Sure, I can offer the resume, detailing two decades of experience in education policy and education research. I can cite my tenure as a school board chairman, school volunteer, and advocate. But more often than not, my immediate response is, “I’m a parent.”
During my time in the education trenches, I have seen too many parents who seem to abdicate responsibility for educating their children. The common line is that it is the school, and more important, the teacher, who is responsible for instruction. That what happens behind the schoolhouse doors or between the hours of 8 am and 3 pm is the responsibility of the educator, and not the parent. But we all know that just isn’t true.
The most successful of schools are those where educators and parents work in partnership. It isn’t the adversarial relationship, where parents come in when there is a perceived problem with the teacher or the student. It isn’t the absentee relationships, where parents don’t come in at all. And it isn’t the “Facebook” relationship, where parents pretend they are active parts of the school community to impress their friends, but in reality could never find their way from the office to their child’s classroom without a guide.
No, the success comes from parents and teachers working together. It comes from parents being smarter about how school work, what is expected of teachers, what is expected of students, and how parents can support all of the above. It is about parents understanding what teaching and learning really means. And yes, it is about a keen understanding of assessment and how good tests should be used (and how to determine when a lousy or unnecessary test is presenting itself).
I’m proud of my role as a parent. One of the reasons I wrote my book, Dadprovement, was to issue a call to arms to have fathers more involved in their children’s lives. That means more than just putting down the iPhone during the weekend soccer game or asking “so how was your day, sport?” on one of the few evenings when the family is actually having dinner together. Real involvement means knowing your kids’ interests and friends and teachers and classroom lessons and general progress in the learning process.
Earlier this year, I was part of an important project from Getting Smart called #SmartParents. It was developed, with the support of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, to provide both guidance and personal stories from parents to parents about how we can be more active and positively involved in our kids’ learning process. The final product of that effort is a new book, Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning.
I am incredibly honored to be a contributing author to this book, offering an essay based on my SXSWEdu talk earlier this year on parental engagement. But I’m even more excited by the total product and the inspiration, the guidance, the support, and the sense that we are not alone that it provides to parents, all parents of school-aged children. It serves as a true unifier for those parents who understand the power of public education, for those who know how important a positive experience in the classroom and with the teacher is, and who are committed to being a part of that learning process.
As I recently said about Smart Parents:
There is nothing more powerful than an engaged, informed parent. Smart Parents: Parenting for Powerful Learning provides all families – regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or zip code — the tools and resources they need to be effective advocates and inspiring teachers for their kids. Successful learners need smart parents supporting and encouraging them.
Check out the book. You won’t be disappointed. And I guarantee you will see your own family in at least one of the stories told. If you don’t, I’ll personally buy the book back from you.