At Cannon Hill Anglican College in Brisbane’s inner-east, parents have always been valued members of the school community.
But a pilot program running in the Junior School’s Japanese language classrooms is proving parents can also be powerful and effective allies when it comes to the educational outcomes of students.
Specialist Japanese teacher Jane Everett (pictured) was keen to get parents more engaged with what was being taught in classrooms, and for the last two years has been trialling a number of communication techniques between home and school.
Initially she considered evening Japanese lessons for parents on site but when COVID hit in early 2020, she instead recorded a series of short video lessons linked to what the children were learning and emailed them to parents at the end of each week.
A special parent-portal on the school website, with Japanese resources parents and students can download at any time, has been another popular communication channel with families.
The school’s work is being nurtured and steered by an Independent Schools Queensland 2020/2021 Research in Schools project, which receives funding support from the QIS Parents Network.
Ms Everett is now working on creating take-home resources linked to what is being taught in the classroom for parents and children to explore together. The books will all have a QR code which will allow families to hear Ms Everett reading the story in Japanese, prompting further rich conversations at home.
Home-school collaboration ‘enriching’ the education of students
It’s been an exciting and encouraging journey into the parent engagement research arena for Jane – a teacher with 24 years’ experience.
“I was always aware of the benefits of engaging parents but I’ve now seen first-hand how collaboration (between school and home) enriches the experience for the child,’’ she says.
Feedback from families had also been very positive.
“Our parents want their children to do well and they are sending them to our great school because they want them to be successful, but some parents were telling me they didn’t know the Japanese language so they didn’t know how to help their children (academically) at home.
“Those casual conversations got me thinking that that is something we can help parents with and we can do it in a fun and engaging way and that’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do.
“Parents have told us it’s given them a way to make that extra connection (with their child).’’
Time-poor parents, who found it difficult to make parent information nights, especially valued the resources that could be downloaded in their own time, she said.
Engagement trumps involvement
Cannon Hill Anglican College’s Deputy Director of Primary Anita Spencer, who has been overseeing and encouraging Jane’s initiatives, said the project had highlighted the big difference between parent involvement and parent engagement.
“The lines often get blurred between involvement and engagement,’’ Anita said.
“When parents are engaged in what their children are learning at school and they are contributing to that learning at home, that is true parent engagement.’’
Cannon Hill Anglican College is a co-educational P-12 school at Cannon Hill in Brisbane’s inner-east.