The last Saturday of January, ECA parents filled our campus, and I loved the positive buzz of conversation and activity. Senior class parents helped students sell snacks and care for elementary students; 11th grade parents met about upcoming senior class events; the seven mission leaders shared information about the upcoming April trips, where over 80% of our HS students will be serving out of Bogota; and close to 20 options were available during the two workshop sessions.
Parents chose topics about ECA’s budget or strategic planning goals, training for success from a biblical perspective, helping form a healthy sexual identity, dealing with bullying, and MANY more. All of this was above and beyond the packed one-hour general assembly that Colombia requires parents to attend each year. Passing the minimum quorum requirement is always worth a celebration!
During that meeting, the Director of Finances, the Board, the construction fundraising committee and the parent association leadership team all shared information. Members of the academic team shared about family field trip survey results and both Colombian and USA standardized test results. These results were worth cheering for! Sitting in the new cafeteria for the large assembly meeting allowed us to see the new gym that is under construction through the plate glass windows. The roof is up, and the cement floor was in the process of being poured. The underlying feel of the day was one of expectation and thankfulness, of hope and anticipation, of growth and learning.
It’s a privilege to have parents involved in our ECA world…and not just this one special day each year! We truly want to involve parents in the education and training of their children, and not just have parental involvement be nice rhetoric or theory. Though we strongly want parents to be engaged in their child’s academic world, it takes planning, effort, and patience. We have to hurdle language and traffic barriers, cultural expectations and intense personalities, scheduling nightmares and logistical quagmires, and, of course, very busy schedules. It is extra work to communicate well and include parents in our processes–but it is worth it.
What are practical ways we can continue to forge those ties to work as a team with our parents? What is ECA’s responsibility and role in this process?
We focus on three major threads, as we try to include parents in the educational process.
- Academic progress, helping parents take advantage of the Renweb/FACTS platform to follow each child’s development, making sure ECA reports and comments are insightful and timely
- Social insights, sharing how the ECA team sees each child in a school setting
- Spiritually, sharing appropriate comments and perspectives
- Openness to listen to the home perspective
Opportunities to connect and support
- Chances to see children perform (spelling bee, soccer games, Celebrate Colombia, Christmas concert, spring play, etc.)
- Assignments that include parent input
- Possibility of knowing our staff (ECA opening day picnic, Open House, group prayer times, various meetings, individual invitations, open-door policy)
- Networking with other parents for the students’ benefit (parent prayer groups, WhatsApp groups)
- Serving as a parent rep on the Consejo de Padres
- Participating in school committees, like the Board, Consejo Directivo, Fundraising Committee, PTF Coordinating Committee, etc.
- Volunteering (library, classrooms, office, special events, special speakers)
- Websites, videos, books
- Workshops, talks (monthly and at our annual Parent Educational Workshops in January)
And we recognize we have not yet arrived at knowing how to best partner with our parents for the benefit of our students. We are open for more ideas that could fit into existing categories, or something entirely new. Backed by research and experience, we know having engaged parents is best for students. So, despite the challenges that come with this initiative, parent involvement is worth working for!