February 7, 2013

Good Things Happen At Friends’ In The Forum

At Friends’ we pride ourselves on the fact that we are a school where parents are actively involved in partnership with us in each child’s education. In support of that partnership, we have a dynamic and dedicated Parent Council at our school. 

The Parent Council leadership organizes meet-and-greet events for all our parents.  They bring in fabulous presenters for our parent education series. (Friends’ parent and psychologist Kristi Pikiewicz just gave a wonderful talk on Wednesday on parenting different personality types.) They coordinate Thanksgiving gifts for our teachers. They are involved in supporting our students and teachers in many other ways.  Some of the most visible events on our Parent Council calendar are our Parent Forums.

Parent Forums are town hall style meetings where parents and I share dialogue on any number of topics that are currently on parents’ minds.  I am always happy to talk to our parent body about anything that is going on at school. Some parents will submit topics to me ahead of time.  When I know about certain topics before the Forums, I will often invite other teachers or staff members who contribute to the conversation.

Our most recent (and first) Parent Forum of this school year was at the end of January. We had a great turn out and a robust conversation. It was a good reminder to all of us of how important these Forums are.  We will be having at least two more this semester.  The date of the next one is at the end of this article.

Among the many topics we discussed in January was the issue of late arrivals in the elementary school.  As a result of this conversation, using direct feedback from parents, we were able to change the way we start school in the mornings.  It’s been a huge positive change that has led to a calmer hallway, early entry into classrooms, and an increase in instruction time. Happier parents, happier teachers, and happier kids.

Parents also asked me about our Friday Gatherings.  Many parents agreed that they would like to see more Gatherings, especially more that focus on science.  I brought this issue to Dacia Horn, who oversees our Gatherings, and our elementary teacher team, who all agreed with Parent Council.  Dacia has booked more Gatherings, including one this week that centers on ecology and another next week as well.

Many parents came to the January Forum with questions about the ways we teach math and the Investigations curriculum in particular.  We shared an engaging discussion about our conceptual approach to teaching math versus more traditional ways in which many of us were taught.  Parents had questions about our math block and how to help their child with homework.  Parents of older students in the school were able to reassure parents of younger children how our math program has given their children the opportunity to grow as thinking mathematicians.

I won’t take more space here to go into each element of our math conversation: you can read a detailed overview of our math program here.  What became eminently clear was our need to provide more and ongoing education to our parents about our 21st century math program and how it gives our students a solid foundation that readies them for middle school and beyond.

The Forum gave us an opportunity to understand how parents are feeling about ways they can support their children in math.  As a result, Friends’ is committing to holding a parent education event in math twice a year, each semester.  Our first event this year is coming up on Thursday March 7th at 8:30 a.m.

I am grateful to all of our parents for coming to our Parent Council Forum. In the coming weeks, we will explore ways to make our Forums as relevant to our preschool parents as our elementary parents, including holding meetings in the preschool.  Thank you to all of you for bringing us your questions, your concerns, your stories, and your wonderings.  Mostly, thank you for being such willing and passionate partners in your child’s education.

The date for our next Parent Council Forum is Wednesday March 13th  at 8:30 a.m. in the Great Room. Please join us.

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