A large body of research identifies that there are significant gains for students whose parents play an active part in their education. Much of this research looks at the benefits for all children when parents are involved in the child's education in some way, although there are many ways in which this might occur. Parent commitment to education is not the exclusive domain of parents of gifted children; although the gifted education literature emphasizes the importance of, and benefits for gifted children when parents are participants in their education.
There are significant benefits to be gained by trying to gain a clearer understanding of different perspectives and build together a respectful, trusting relationship within which to determine the specific ways in which efforts can be expended by individuals and groups.
Larry Ferlazzo describes 'parent engagement' as characterised by regular, two-way conversations; where schools 'lead with their ears' and listen carefully to parents; establish agreed upon expectations; develop common goals and shared visions; build mutual respect, confidence and trust; arrange training for parents to enable them to know how schools work; schools recognize there must be a much wider focus on improvement because educational institutions exist within the context of a broad community; schools maintain a commitment to continue working towards parent engagement for the duration of the relationship. The emphasis on engagement equalizes power and schools begin 'doing with' parents. This fundamental shift creates a more collaborative relationship, where parents and educators work alongside each other to support students' learning and to achieve mutual goals.
In order to develop a relationship based upon mutual respect and trust, it is critical that parents and educators actively listen to each other, move away from polarized thinking, try to consider the others' perspective and discard the myths, biases and stereotypes that permeate the media, our communities and culture.
Knowledge, experience and expertise – or the perceived lack, thereof – can act as flashpoints, igniting conflict between home and school. One's perception is one's reality; however both can be wrong. Untested assumptions about another's knowledge, experience and expertise, especially when related to the complex educational and psychosocial characteristics and needs of high ability students, can create tension and frustrations when parents and educators fail to understand and/or provide support for a student or each other.
It is important for parents and educators to work towards developing relationships that create valuable partnerships to enrich all parties and benefit all students, their families and educators.
© Michele Juratowitch