Parental involvement in schools is always a hotly contested issue. What is "too little" or "too much"? Who and which indicators define these parameters? And how can schools manage this to prevent the perception that parents who are not involved don't care about their children's schooling and those who are involved, suffocate the management of schools? It is finding balance between these perceived extremes that is the challenge.
For me, the quickest way to test whether a school is remotely interested or committed to parents being involved in their child/ren's schooling, beyond the mandatory fundraising activity you are required to support or the scheduled parent-teacher meetings or the SGB- driven election and budget meetings, is the reception area of an institution. It is your first port-of-call, and whether you want to hear this or not, it is a telltale sign of the ethos of the school towards parents. Unfair? Let me go a little further - it is a reflection of the management tone in the school towards children's guardians.
Often I get to visit schools and find myself in the reception areas of institutions. Let me tell you: these are interesting places. Many of these areas make you feel welcome, not only by the layout of the area but also by the manner in which you are engaged. Too many though are as cold as the surrounding brick-and-mortar. You feel unwelcome, that you are a "visitor" and not part of the stakeholder group of the school. The only thing missing is a ticket machine to issue you a number. And the reception staff seem to have forgotten how to greet, smile or be courteous. The parent is almost viewed as a problem before the issue is known. And don't dare arrive to challenge! Missiles, in the form of cold stares and rigid demeanor, are trained on you just-in-case the signal comes to blow you off the premises. And this war stance is taken even before you actually engage the person being sought for an audience.
And then the person who is being sought arrives (if you managed to get to this point). Forget about the impact of global warming on the arctic ice - send these "stiffs" to the Poles and global warming will never again be an issue! The world could move on to some other pressing environmental matter! And when I sit and listen to the chitchat of the persons waiting to see whoever, I often leave with more knowledge of the issues that drive a school than the meetings I attend on a daily basis.
The old adage "first impressions are lasting impressions" still ring as true today as when it was first stated. Does it cost soooo much for a reception area and its staff to receive persons visiting a school with warmth? As opposed to hostility?
What do you think? Do leave a comment.