Connecting With Parents

Last week, I had the pleasure of the company of some 160 parents of high school students from all over Kentucky. They had gathered at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Louisville for the fourth annual GEAR UP Institute for a College-Going Culture: Drive the Dream. They had gathered for the same reason that all of us parents love to gather, whether it’s at a basketball game in the high school gym, a play or choir concert in the auditorium, a marching band contest or scrimmage on the football field, or on parent conference day, sitting in one of those only semi-comfortable student desks to meet with a teacher: We love our kids and want to help and cheer them on as they reach for their dreams.

The particular group of parents I met last week in Louisville clearly already understood the importance of participating in and helping to guide their children’s lives, and were seeking information in an effort to do so even more effectively. Yet I was struck by the gratitude expressed by many of the parents at what they indicated was a rare opportunity to discuss their aspirations for their children, and to gather important information from experts.

Despite the good intentions of public school policies that include parents, such as open house events, site-based decision making committees and the like, there still seems to be a parent-school information gap, if you will.  Is this the fault of schools, their hands full with the daunting array of federal, state and local mandates and demands, to say nothing of the needs of their primary charges, our children?  Or is it the fault of us parents, swamped with work and family obligations that seem to increase by the minute?  Is a once-yearly gathering like the GEAR UP Institute an adequate response to parents’ desire to be heard and to seek information?  And how might we reach the parents who aren’t even aware of an event such as this?

Let me know your thoughts about how best to involve all parents in an ongoing exchange of ideas and information with their children’s schools, and we’ll explore these in future posts.

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