By Kristyn Dingledy, Guest Contributor
Schools are places known to get things done. Students learn how to read and perform math equations, professional developments are put into practice, parents are called at the end of a long day, and things get done. The lingering question to ask is if “the things getting done” are the best they can be? Are our urban schools getting by or getting things done?
What if communities, schools, and families came together as partners to use the power of a collective to get things done? Could using the assets of each group and working toward amending the deficits that exist in all three groups through partnership and mutual power get things done?
Care is essential. It falls right after trust in my opinion. Without the two, you cannot foster real relationships. Real relationships share power. Consider your own relationships where you feel cared for and trusted and value the other person. Is there a balance of power or trust?
Growth is another critical component of relationships. The ability to grow as a person or a group depends upon the trust and care you have for one another. It is dependent upon the power you give to one another cultivating authenticity and growth of one another. I think of my own children and how I want them to grow and become who they are meant to be. Do you support growth of your students and families and their communities?
Educational opportunities that are genuinely shared to build upon assets and lessen deficits are borne out of a mutual respect and listening to people. These opportunities allow families to collaborate with the school, to build upon their interests and skill sets, then give back to the school, and perpetuate growth back to the community.
Developing leaders of the community with community-based organizations and the school is critical and challenging when working to restore a power imbalance. It requires a paradigm shift of the school and the families of the community. Relationships between community-based organizations, schools, and families fostering students to become their best selves to further the community is what the authors of “Beyond the Bake Sale: A Community-Based Relational Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools” promote with their look into schools practicing the service model, development model, and organizing model.
Relationships bridged between communities, schools, and families answer the posed question: are schools using power to get things done? The power of the collaboration of the established community-based organizations is to help fill needs or services, teaching families the skills needed to become leaders of the school and community. Listening to the families through informal and formal surveys can help truly meet their needs and determine how to share the power, creating change within the communities.
We can all relate to the need of relationships. It’s something people do: seek out camaraderie and support. Building relationships between staff and families is critical, but so is encouraging families to build relationships between one another, to perpetuate a vested interest in the future of all of the students of the community.
Bringing families together through volunteering, educational opportunities, and activities and events provides opportunities for relationships to grow through discussion. This can lead to families coming together to look for ways to solve problems within the school and the community. When families feel valued at the school they are willing to talk and work toward common goals. The school, along with the community-based organizations and the families bring all the components together to create the power to get things done, promoting change for the whole community.
Kristyn Dingledy is an Educational Leadership Master of Arts student in the IU School of Education at IUPUI.