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Posts Tagged ‘Parents’

I have been honoured to serve the community of Eastwood for the last 6 years as their lead learner and Principal. In the course of my work I have supported many parents attempting to help their children in learning.

One of those parents is Stephanie Renaud. Stephanie is a certified teacher, a writer and a @yoga_junkie! She came to visit as she was preparing for a new article around parent/principal relations. As a result Stephanie published in Windsor Parent Magazine and dedicated the piece to me. On my last day the magazine arrived and I was very surprised and extremely honoured by her kind gesture.

I have featured Stephanie’s writing here before so I thought I could share her latest piece with you as the content is helpful for all parents.

Article Below By Stephanie Renaud B.A., B.Ed.
Dedicated with gratitude to James Cowper, principal of Eastwood Public School 2009-2015

Developing a culture of trust between the key players in a child’s education sets the stage for growth, development and success for all concerned.

Whether the connection with your child’s principal (or any professional on staff) arises casually through your continued presence in the school at various functions, or because of the need to collaborate on academic or behavioural issues, the mindset of each player as they enter that interaction plays a major role in whether or not it will be productive.

A mindset is defined as a habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations. Carol Dweck, through her research at Stanford University, divides mindsets into two categories; fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.

The difference is simple.

A fixed mindset arises from the belief that your qualities, or those of others, are carved in stone. Conversely, a growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things that you can cultivate through your efforts. These ideas are broadly applicable to any situation or interaction you find yourself in.

When it comes to your role in your child’s educational journey, the mindset that you approach it with can and will make all the difference. James Cowper, who has been principal at Eastwood Public School in Forest Glade for the last six years puts it this way “If a parent is trying to communicate with a principal or other educational professional about something the first thing they have to do is adopt a growth mindset. Why? Because everything in a school is about learning, this is the baseline and from every experience there is an opportunity to learn. “

As a parent, there are some basic assumptions, or ideas that you can hold in your mind as you develop your relationship with your child’s school that will set the stage for the development of productive, positive partnership.

Presume positive intent – It is incredibly easy to allow our anger, frustration or discomfort with the events bringing us together to colour how we approach our communication. Start by entering each encounter, whether it be a phone call, a face to face meeting, or email, with the assumption in your mind that the person on the other end is coming from a positive place. This way you set yourself up ready to work as a team before you even begin. After all, we all want to see our children succeed.

We are all on the same team – Ultimately, the reason that parent and professional are working together is the child. Your child. You all come together with the interest of working towards the highest good for this child that you can achieve. After all, isn’t that what we all hope for? Bearing this in mind as we work together supports us in weathering disagreements with equanimity and productive collaboration when tough situations arise. It’s how we work through the hard times that determine the good times we see.

We all bring a key ingredient to the table – Principals are the experts in education. They have completed 13 years of post-secondary training as well as numerous years in the classroom to earn their way to the office that they now occupy. They bring a very important ingredient to the table. Parents are the lead on parenting. Anything that happens outside school hours is the parents purvey. Between the two people, you have the entire day covered. Knowing this, collaboration becomes a powerful tool. If you are facing an issue such as aggressive or inappropriate behaviour that has caused a suspension, how you as the parent deal with the time your child is at home will have a great influence on how productive and effective that disciplinary action will be in fostering growth and learning in your child.

Have a clear idea of what you want to know before communicating with each other- Do you really understand the events surrounding this communication? What caused this to happen? There may be rules, or disciplinary procedures, or other motivations that you don’t understand clearly that brought this all about. Have clear questions ready to ask when you communicate so that you will be fully informed as part of the team.

Principals (and teachers) are people too –This means they have stress, and bad days and families like everyone else. Seeing this, you allow yourself to have compassion for them, and patience. You expect this in return, giving it will inspire and call out the same in them.

Be the master of your own mindset – Says Mr Cowper; “Be aware of your own motivations and presumptions. These make or break a partnership.” As you interact, you may become aware of a presumption that you hold that is not jiving with or helping your current situation. A growth mindset opens one to the possibility that this can evolve based on the quality of your own experience.

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As with any partnership, the people who are on each side make all the difference in how that partnership plays out. So, what happens when it’s the professional that has the fixed mindset and the parent who holds the growth mindset?

“The only thing we can do as human beings is be mindful of who we are and mindful of our behaviour and let everything else happen around us.” Says Cowper. “We must all focus on who we are and what we do, and if that guidance system is kindness and understanding then you can’t go wrong.”

By focussing on our own contribution to the situation and being confident that we ourselves are coming from a place of openness, in a spirit of collaboration, we set ourselves up to frame our relationships in the most productive and responsive way possible. In doing this, we feed the learning and lay the groundwork for positive, productive growth.

As always, tweet me with your thoughts, and contributions @yoga_junkie I love to hear from you!

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I am sure Mrs. Renaud would have stumbled upon Twitter on her own in short time.  In fact I am pretty sure she had an account and maybe just wasn’t using it yet.  I am not going to take credit where it is not due, ie. it was not I that made her “Tweet”.  After all she is correct in saying that it “is fast becoming an indispensable tool in the world of education.”  So as the Eastwood Parent Involvement Committee Chair person I expected her, sooner or later, to engage with the various accounts that our school had to offer.  Why then aren’t all parents grabbing this same opportunity, this chance, to keep their ears on the tracks and their eyes on the horizon while their children fly by on the high velocity train we are calling the education system today.  That is to say that many schools are catching that train.  Others may be slow off the platform while still others are sitting at the station waiting for the bus.  Nevertheless, the realm of social media and content creation in my context is a realm of learning, connecting, creating and collaborating for all learners.

This image, pulled from twitter just this evening in fact, states a powerful message about harnessing the power inherent in the technology of today.  Try inserting Parents or Principals in place of Teachers!

Author Unknown

Author Unknown: If you know of the origin please comment so I can verify and attribute please.

It wasn’t long into the school year that Mrs. Renaud began recognizing the power of the twitter-verse.  She soon started sending tweets about her learning as a parent.  Her son and his classmates interacted with her.  She shared these experiences with other parents.  Shortly after that Stephanie discovered #ptchat (parent/teacher chat).  She attended EdCampSWO on April 6, 2014 and now is looking to start her own twitter groups to help other parents learn alongside their children.  Below is a culmination of all these experiences in the form of an article that she wrote for a regional publication highlighting the power that social media, specifically twitter, can have on the relationships between parents, students and school. Please read this guest post by Mrs. Renaud and then feel free to send her a tweet and let her know what great work she is doing as a learning parent!

It’s Sweet To Tweet! A Guide to Twitter for Parents

by: Stephanie Renaud (@yoga_junkie) Eastwood (@EastwoodEagles) Parent Involvement Committee (@EastwoodPIC) Chair

Twitter is fast becoming an indispensable tool in the world of education.  Schools and their teachers are jumping on the bandwagon by the dozen.

If you are not a Twitter user already, I am sure you have heard of it.  It is very simple to create an account.  All you need is an email address.  You are in complete control of what you follow, so it is easy to customize your feed to your interests and likes, much like Facebook.  A quick search of the Greater Essex County District School Board site reveals that many, if not most schools have an account that you can follow, as well as individual teachers, classes, school organizations and administrators.

I contend that, as parents, we would be well placed to be jumping on the band wagon as well.  Here’s why.

Reasons why is it sweet to tweet as a parent.

#1 Connect with other parents.

Community is a powerful thing.  In a time when so many of us are part of dual parent working families, we barely have time to kiss our kids goodnight when we tuck them in, to say nothing of building relationships within our community.  Yet these connections are what makes life meaningful.  These connections help us to understand that we are not alone, that there are others out there who have the same joys and struggles we do.  In the same way that Facebook allows us to efficiently and conveniently connect with our friends and loved ones about our lives, twitter can help us connect to our children, our community and our schools in convenient, manageable ways.

#2 Up to the moment info on what your kid is doing at school.

How many of us ask our kids what they did at school today?  I am willing to wager all of us.  How often is the answer “oh, nothing.”  Ugh! I am trying to be interested here! Twitter offers you the opportunity to be tuned in to what your kids are doing on a day-to-day basis so you can ask questions that are much more specific.  The more specific you are, the more interested you sound, and the more likely you are to get a meaningful response.  When our kids feel like we are interested in their learning, their learning becomes just that much more engaging for them.  Who knows? We might just learn something new ourselves.

#3 Tweeting saves trees.

How much paper comes home in your kids’ school bags?  If they are anything like mine, it’s at least a small forest per week.  In an effort to reduce the paper waste in schools, many of them post updates and information on Twitter. Trouble is, not enough parents are active on the interface to substantially reduce the need for paper communication.  Become active, it can reduce waste.

#4 A place to ask questions and get answers from people who know.

As parents with children in school we often have questions and concerns about what happens at school with our kids.  Tweeting these questions and concerns allows us the opportunity to connect not only with other parents who may be wondering the same thing, but also with professionals both in our school community and in the larger global community who can give us answers, feedback and next steps.  Without leaving our kitchen table.

#5 A safe place to air general concerns and share ideas.

Who has time to go another meeting? So often our concerns and ideas are shelved due to sheer lack of time to set the meeting, to address or share them.  Let alone attend that meeting and be present enough to make it meaningful.  Tweet it.  Instantly your concern is communicated to the relevant people, be it your administrator, your child’s classroom teacher or the parent involvement committee for your school or region.   To make it even better? The responses are delivered right to your mobile device, be it iPhone, iPad or laptop.  Did  you have an idea to share? A new way to approach a problem that you see with how your school operates? Tweet it! Ideas are powerful things, and are better when shared.

#6 Does your child have special needs? Reach out to others who walk the same path.

With the rise of ADHD, autism and other developmental and behavioural diagnosis in children it has become more important than ever that we connect with other parents who do the same job we do.  Sharing ideas, questions, and struggles is a great way to help our own parenting strategies evolve and improve.  As a special needs parent, the more tools I have, the more effective I can be.

#7 Great way to stayed connected as a working parent

Let’s face it, we are all way too busy.   Being more involved in our children’s education is something many, if not most of us want to do that we just feel we don’t have the time for.  The emergence of social media as a tool makes being involved as easy as checking your twitter feed.  It only takes a few minutes, and instantly you are more informed, more involved.  Like my mom always told me, knowledge is power.

#8  Knowledge is power.

The more information we have as parents about how and what our children are learning, the more we can support and extend the learning beyond the classroom.  Research is clear on this point.  The more education is extended beyond the four walls of the classroom, the more meaningful and long-lasting  it becomes.  How powerful is that?

As parents of increasingly technologically capable young people it behooves us to join the digital movement.  With awareness and involvement in the digital world we have the ability to guide and safeguard our children in the new digital frontier, and join with our schools in facilitating the development of our students as global citizens with media savvy.

Every school in the #GECDSB has a website.  I encourage you to look up your schools website where they will no doubt have multiple twitter accounts listed.

If you are still not feeling too confident that you can set up your own account and get tweeting, check out these links which lead you to some nice, simple How-To guides to get you started.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/how-to-use-twitter/#!DDUXH

http://mainframereview.com/how-to-twitter-for-dummies/

Tweet, engage, empower.  It’s that simple.

 Special thanks for this post goes to Stephanie Renaud, Eastwood Parent Involvement Committee Chair

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A video that was inspired by @Johnwink90 ‘s 136 character tweet.

On Saturday, July 18, I participated in #satchat.  I had some time while the kids were playing Plants versus Zombies (the “Cowper Game App of the Summer!”).   I had a coffee and my partner was reading beside me.  I figured….why not.  The topic of the day was “Back to School” and leading us was @DCulberhouse.  I knew that the majority of the educators were West Coasties and I was interested in their take on Back to School.  Of course there were many other participants from all over North America.  Until the spammers got ahold of the hashtag things were going great.  Of course the infiltration of spammers has nothing to do with the good people leading or participating in #satchat.  On the contrary.  The fact that we were trending a topic on a Saturday morning across the continent (and warranted the most inappropriate spam) speaks volumes about the quality of the 140 character content.

As @dougpete explains in What does Twitter for PD Mean; Twitter can be a launching pad:


The best learning for me happens when the conversation takes off and doesn’t necessarily stay in the social media.  I like following the links – take me to news reports, research, forums, wikis, and blogs where the meaty stuff resides.  You don’t get the full monty 140 characters at a time but like the library card catalogue, it should be there to tease and inform you about where the good stuff is.

After reading @dougpete’s blog entry and considering many conversations with incredible learning leaders like @kellypower and @globeandtims I continue to rehash the essential question:  Is Twitter a Professional Learning tool?

Well, in this particular instance,:

  1. I participated in the chat on Saturday with a group of like-minded educators passionate about learning and opening the school year (from all over North America).
  2. I learned of a myriad of ways other leaders are handling logistical issues that are ever-present in the first weeks of school.
  3. I grabbed a few nuggets of wisdom that resonated with me.
  4. I learned of many ideas, best practises and innovations for having a successful Back to School Night.
  5. I learned of one Principal (@JohnWink90) making “How To” videos for his parents and community.
  6. I made the committment to “give it a go” (thanks for the lingo @jessmcculloch) myself with an iPad, iMovie and our Eastwood Eagles YouTube account.
  7. I filmed the entire video using my own children and a few adult helpers as “actors” on the very same day.
  8. I then sent the video to three individuals (@avivaloca being one), I have never met face to face, for their perspective and assistance (as well as an administrator in a neighbouring district.)
  9. I also sent the video to two Vice Principals in my district for their perspective and assistance.
  10. Finally I uploaded the video to our school blog and mailed it directly to our faculty (we have some new faces)

I have captured the moment I got the idea with this image:

This endeavour involved professionals, learning, technology tools, acting (doing) and reflecting.  I will undoubtedly get feedback from the community, other school leaders and the kids.  Granted there is not a direct impact on student achievement.  I still believe firmly that the reason I engaged in the entire process was because I am a member of an ever-expanding professional learning network through Twitter.  Again, in this instance the power of social media lead to deeper learning experiences.

For me Twitter has not been the best professional learning I have ever engaged in.  I believe that saying this is hyperbole.  On the contrary I have had some incredibly moving learning experiences with one, two or three people in a room making dialogue over work, learning, dilemmas or successes of our profession.  These are the professional learning experiences that have been the most riveting and influential.  Funny thing is. . . without Twitter I may not have had the opportunity to have these conversations with the likes of those mentioned above (not to mention the 34 #UnPlugd12 -ers from last weekend!).  Twitter has turned me on to some individuals who have led me to question, bolster, appreciate, act on and essentially change my perspective on just about everything I have learned to this point.

Thanks good sir.  I hope it helps our school community this September.  I am going to have some fun filming a trailer for this academic year next!

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