Thursday, November 12, 2015

When Parents Come Together

By Stephanie Gonzalez, External Affairs Associate - Advocacy and Outreach for Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy.

Do you know what happens when parents come together?

Since the beginning of the school year, I have had the privilege of seeing the commitment parents have to learning about their child's school and the ways in which they can become stakeholders and advocates.

Our first workshop was in September. We came together to outline the group’s goals and aspirations as well as to give parents the opportunity to learn a bit more about each other. It was wonderful to see how aligned parents were in their goals. Some echoed that they wanted to become learners of our school’s model, education policy, and legislation. Others wanted to find ways to engage the broader parent community. Most had already approached me separately with creative ideas for us to tackle and implement. Every single question, conversation, and idea was unique and encouraging.

In October, we learned about the power of each of our stories. We welcomed Jen Silbert, Co-Founder of Learning401, an organization with a focused “effort to engage the masses and revamp RI’s education ecosystems.” Through inspiring and thought-provoking discussion, Ms. Silbert introduced the fellows to the power of appreciative inquiry, ladders of inference, and the tree of opportunity. Sometimes people--parents--need to be given the space and freedom to share their story in a room full of people whose eyes and gestures will say, “I know the feeling. I get it. I’ve been there.” I am grateful to Ms. Silbert for creating that opportunity for our parents to define their place in the dynamic, often politicized, education world.

Our most recent workshop was held last Saturday. Yes, on a beautiful Saturday morning a group of 19 BVP parents came together for a content-heavy workshop that focused on BVP’s education model, a breakdown of the education funding formula, and an introduction to the inner workings of bills and legislation. We were happy to be joined by friends from RI-CAN and RIMA to help us lead small group discussions about the topics. One of the stations, the “Brainstorm” station, allowed for a parent-led discussion on what steps this group could and should take when the new year begins.

So I ask you again, do you know what happens when parents come together? They inquire and believe wholeheartedly in the power of affecting change through knowledge and organization. They express their thoughts about education through a lens that is not always present or even considered. They motivate each other and people like me to continue creating spaces that allow for stories and parent leadership to unfold.

Stay tuned for more on BVP’s Parent Advocacy Fellows.

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