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Editorial: Parental engagement begins with you

October 20, 2015 Jonathan Teghtmeyer, ATA News Editor-in-Chief

Key relationship represents an opportunity that’s vital to our success

I did not get much sleep again last night.

Our two-year-old has his new “big boy bed,” which means he will actually go to sleep in his room as opposed to screaming relentlessly from the inside of the crib. But it also means there are no bars to keep him in one place through the night. Inevitably, he ends up in our room sometime between midnight and 2:00 a.m. If we’re lucky, he will fall back to sleep; when we’re not lucky, there is a great deal of screaming.

Whatever squawking comes from the adjacent rooms tends to awaken our four-year-old daughter at some point, and then she needs to join the party in Mommy and Daddy’s room. Again, if we’re lucky, she will settle in without clobbering her brother over the head and we can all return to sleep. Lately, we haven’t been very lucky.

Continually trying to manage the irrational yet insatiable demands of children aged two and four has become my Everest, and I am quickly coming to realize that parenting is the most challenging and difficult role I have ever had in my life.

My realizations and reflections on parenting have also caused me to reflect on my work in teaching. Parents are our most valuable partners in education. While I have always appreciated the challenges of parenting, I’m sure that my newfound understanding would enhance my ability to connect and partner with parents.

My understanding that parents are — generally speaking — trying their best and only want what’s best for their children helps build that relationship. Similarly, when parents understand that we as teachers are trying our best and want to best serve their children, that relationship builds.

This combination of shared interests and mutual respect makes for a very powerful partnership.

We are at a very interesting time for education in Alberta. We have a new government with a new vision for education, but one that is also challenged by significant fiscal pressures. We have many new MLAs who might have very limited perspectives on our current education system. Teaching and learning conditions in our classrooms need to be addressed, and negotiations will begin shortly on new collective agreements. At the same time, public education is facing significant issues, including the successful inclusion of minorities, discussion about teaching methodology and back-to-basics, and educational reform movements.

In this time of change and opportunity, we need to take advantage of these powerful partnerships with parents.

We know from our public opinion polling that parents of school-aged children are significantly more likely to be sympathetic to our issues. In our most recent round of public opinion polling, we asked respondents to what extent they trust teachers to provide true and accurate information about Alberta’s K–12 education system.
Forty-four per cent of respondents said they had a great deal of trust in what teachers said, and eighty-two per cent said they placed at least some trust in the information provided by teachers. Those numbers were much higher among parents.

We followed up on this question in a number of focus groups with Albertans. They said they trust the information that comes from teachers because teachers are on the front line of education and know what is going on.

Here is our opportunity.

Our success on many of these issues comes back to our ability to engage parents in educational issues. And that work starts with you, as an individual teacher, talking to individual parents about the things that matter in our schools today.

They will trust what you have to say, and they will be our biggest supporters. ❚

I welcome your comments—contact me at


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