School-based programs and resources often include components aimed at students, teachers and other school staff. More often, resources for parents and caregivers are overlooked, especially at the secondary level. By developing the reflex to include a component for parents and caregivers whenever we initiate something for the school community, we can build a connection between the home and school leading to stronger community participation and a healthier school climate.
For example, if the school invites a speaker to a professional development activity, parents and caregivers can be invited to join in. Alternatively, an additional event can be organized specifically for parents. Including parents and caregivers by inviting them to participate in any initiative aimed at building a safe and inclusive school communicates the importance of their role and its value.
At the secondary level, this may not always be appropriate or desirable. This may be the case when an activity aims to build student autonomy, or when students have initiated and organized an activity and they do not want their parents or caregivers to be present. Nonetheless, there are many events and activities where a component for parents or guardians is relevant. Key is to develop the habit of asking ourselves the question, so that parents’ and caregivers’ participation is less often overlooked.
To achieve full inclusion, we need to incorporate awareness of parents and caregivers who face concrete linguistic, economic, physical or other barriers into our planning. Schools also face many financial or administrative barriers, but there may be simple, feasible arrangements that can facilitate inclusion.
In one school, efforts are made to ensure that as many activities as possible are offered free of charge. A committee raises funds to ensure that families who cannot pay are able to participate in those school activities with a cost. Fundraising events are held at the school to raise money for this fund.
When organizing a meeting, a workshop or another event, we can consider whether there is a need for linguistic support. Stating the availability of interpretation at an event immediately validates the needs and experiences of marginalized parents. (Note: When searching for community members to provide interpretation, it is important to find peers who are able to offer this service rather than depending on students.)
A school with a multiethnic community holds a meeting at the beginning of the school year for families who are new to Canada and the school. They invite settlement workers with varying language capacities or identify community members to interpret. During the meeting, they provide food and hold Q & A sessions. Families are organized into linguistic groups and simultaneous interpretation is provided. Families who wish are matched with settlement workers for ongoing support. The event is held following the school’s open house, in order to answer questions raised during that event.