Family Engagement

Learning Walks…More Than a Tour of the School

July 8, 2014

Somewhere in a Twitter conversation that I was in with Don Gately (@donald_gately) & others recently, the idea came up about “Learning Walks”. Our Twitter conversation led to a group Google Hangout today to discuss the idea in more depth.

What is a Learning Walk?

It is an invitation to parents to come to the school for a set period of time (an hour or two), to go on a guided tour of the school/classrooms during the school day. Not to look at the decor - but to learn more about the learning happening or explore other topics revolving around education and the school. Each tour/learning walk, would have a topic or theme to guide the discussion and help with selection of which classrooms to visit. The thought is more about giving parents an opportunity to witness what a “real” lesson looks like and not a “dog and pony show” lesson. These are also not about a parent sitting in on and observing THEIR child...but to learn more about a topic or the school through observing in them in action. Following the Learning Walk, the group would sit down to talk more in depth about what they've observed and answer questions.

Why host Learning Walks?

To create another opportunity to build, improve and strengthen home-school relations….creating true partners in education and another step in knocking down the wall that often exists between home and school.

What fears/concerns may exist?

In conversations with others in my children’s school about inviting parents in to observe a "real" lesson, I was told that teachers may feel inviting parents in opens the door to more criticism. This was also brought up in this case.

I can say as a parent who has witnessed a few “real” lessons this year (none in my own children’s classrooms); I am less critical and more proud. Seeing the teachers and students work through a lesson that doesn't go perfectly as planned is simply awesome. I honestly believe that those criticizing the teachers and/or school, are doing it already and regardless of witnessing a perfect, or imperfect, lesson. Although I already support our teachers efforts, witnessing their lessons garnered more support from me...and I believe that would be the case for most parents. As parents, most of us want to like and be proud of our child’s school and teachers. Teachers are doing some really great things in teaching our children and helping them succeed in a world that will most likely look very different from the world we grew up in. But how many parents know about those great things? Why not give parents experiences to brag about the teachers and school to their community? Jay Posick (@posickj) had mentioned that he uses “I noticed…” and “I wonder…” in his observations currently. I love this statement and think the format creates a setting for positive conversations.

Another concern was, not all parents have the ability to come into school during the day. Many children today live in households where everyone works. How do you make sure they don't feel excluded or feel they need to choose between supporting their children financially or at school.

Given that school isn't in session in the evenings or on weekends, the suggestion came up to share any discussions and resources to all families after. It was also suggested to create short videos that could be shared at an evening event or through email.

I’m curious….what are your thoughts on this outreach idea? Would you be willing to try it? What ideas would you add? What other fears or concerns do you have and how could they be addressed/resolved/prevented?

Following the GHO, a Google doc was set up to share ideas. Feel free to contribute or simply read some of what we discussed to learn more.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we’ve preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own.

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