Our Bullying Prevention module proposed a three-point framework for developing a healthy school culture, including measures aimed at encouraging reflection, training and awareness-raising aimed at changing attitudes, and the development and implementation of strategies for action aimed at skill-building and policy development. (See Developing a Healthy School Culture.)
When parents and caregivers are engaged in this endeavour, they receive the same information and messages as their children and can become ambassadors for the school’s values and vision. For schools that have embarked upon a process aimed at changing their culture to one with increased safety and inclusion, parents and caregivers can become “agents of cultural change”. Whether or not they are actively involved in school initiatives, at a minimum, all can play an active role and have an influence from their home, in conversations with their children.
Schools can build the perception that the values and attitudes that shape their culture are important and worthy of action and attention. When the school’s culture is given as much importance as academics, and when parents and caregivers “buy in” to this vision, they become “agents of cultural change”. At the same time, schools need to develop parents’ and caregivers’ capacity to play this role.
Parents and caregivers present themselves with a wide range of expertise, skills and strategies related to childrearing. It is important to take the time to understand and validate the strengths, ideas and assets they bring. Many will acknowledge that they feel isolated, that they are struggling and searching for ideas, input and success stories around positive and effective childrearing strategies (just as we, as teachers, are always seeking better and more effective ways to do our job.)
While ensuring respect for the value and broad diversity of childrearing styles that form the basis of any culture, schools can offer opportunities for skill-building that support parents and caregivers in their challenging task of childrearing. Parents and caregivers do have resources, skills and expertise, yet they can still seek out and benefit from other skills and information. This includes skills and information related to prevention and intervention in situations involving bullying and inequity.
If expectations are placed upon parents and guardians to play such a role, then training aimed at skill-building is necessary. (See Building Community.) This is true as well for teachers and other school staff, who are expected to work with parents and caregivers in difficult and challenging situations of bullying and inequity. If this is part of our job, then we need resources, information and training to support us in developing the necessary skills.