By Kevin Hillman, Guest Contributor
Family and Community engagement are more than “buzz” words when it comes to education. As school leaders, it must be a priority to create and maintain real engagement, which involves going beyond business as usual or the status quo. The first step for many school leaders is changing their deficit perspective of families and community and start recognizing the potential and strength they possess. Through this lens school leaders will be able to acknowledge leadership in these spaces and begin the process for establishing partnership. In making such a shift, school leaders need to be mindful of resistance from fellow staff, they district they may be working in, families and the community. As Susan Auerbach states in Walking the Walk: Portraits in Leadership for Family Engagement in Urban Schools, resistance is vital to taking a firm stand to begin walking this walk of engagement (Auerbach, 2009).
Throughout this piece, the author provided examples of how school leaders can engage families and community to produce what the author terms “school community” (Auerbach, 2009). In the examples, school leaders sought out what was important and of interest to parents and the community, then they used those avenues as a vehicle to engage and build relationship. These school leaders provided resources and the space for families and the community to create things that were beneficial to them, their students and the school. This process of engagement allowed parents to put feelings into action, thus creating opportunity for them to become or display their leadership. Overall these school leaders understood the importance and need for relationship. They went beyond what was mandated or done before to find innovative ways to obtain the connections they needed to serve their students successfully.
As current and future school leaders, we need to understand and value engagement from our families and community. Leaders serving schools with large populations of marginalized students need to be mindful of not participating in deficit thinking when exploring ways of engagement. Genuine relationship building and establishing connections are key components to challenging the us vs. them mentality between school administrators and family/community. This can lead to the creation of true partnership, ensuring success for all parties involved.
Auerbach, S. (2009). Walking the Walk: Portraits in Leadership for Family Engagement in Urban Schools. School Community Journal, 19(1), 9-32.
Kevin Hillman is an Urban Education Studies Doctoral Student in the IU School of Education at IUPUI.