Reflections on a Community Conversation: Parents, Schools, and Community

Reflections on a Community Conversation: Parents, Schools, and Community

 

The Boggs School held a community conversation called “It Takes a Village: Parents, Schools, and Community.” Janice Fialka (mother), Richard Feldman (father), and Emma Fialka-Feldman (daughter) participated in the community conversation, and below are Rich and Emma’s reflections on the gathering.

 

Reflections from Emma:

 

Reimagining schools also requires the exciting and important work of reimagining the "family-school partnership." The recent community conversation on this topic was challenging as families and educators struggled with how to reflect on what worked and didn't work in their own experiences and then put into words what the Boggs Schools should try and put into practice for the upcoming school years. As a an educator and someone who watched my parents engage in particular relationships with schools based on the many meetings and services my brother had as a result of his disability, I am tired of being constantly disappointed with the attitudes and values educators bring when they engage in the important work with families. I know that the growth my students (and my growth as a teacher) depends on how many people are nurturing, and challenging them (and me!).  

 

What I heard over and over again in the Boggs School conversation was a willingness for educators to be more reflective, ask more questions, listen, to be clearer about the academic needs and strengths of their students, to genuinely learn more for the families they work with. Communities and families must be seen as the first teachers in this work. I heard families express a desire to be active in the school -- that includes what happens inside the classrooms, outside on the playgrounds, and in the streets and homes where the children and community members are living. I heard how important it is for schools to have concrete ways for families to be involved and for families to see "what is happening" everyday. And I heard how schools must be creative, flexible, and respectful in how they view support and family engagement. We must not be tied down to rigid and old ways of viewing family engagement. Grace Boggs constantly challenges me to think about "new ways of thinking." Reimagining family engagement in schools means rethinking the purpose of engaging families and the purpose of schooling. Yes, the Boggs School will be a beautiful school for Kindergarten through 4th graders in the fall. And it will also be a space for families, educators, and community members to grow, learn, and engage in these necessary conversations of new ways of imagining education for Detroit. 

 

Reflections from Richard:

 

The community discussion on Sunday was an exciting place to meet some of the parents and community members who are committed to making the Boggs School a safe place that will be filled with love for the children. I was struck by the desire of the parents and the staff to discuss the need to redefine and re-imagine the concept and practice of "parental involvement" in the school. 

 

While some parents will volunteer to "help out" in the classroom, others will work with their child at home and all we be bonded together by a commitment to expand the life of the community. Creating support for parents and teachers so they can become comfortable and ask for support and help is the basis of creating a real community.  Turning to each other, learning to rely on each other as parents, teachers or as students is all part of the values that guide the Boggs School.  Success for each student is not separated from the success of becoming a community that support each other and creates a safe place and space for the children and their/our families.

 

Additionally, it was tremendous to meet the parent of a child who has a disability and learn that the school welcomes all of her children because the Boggs school supports inclusion.