Ed Dept Invests in Families
importance of parent involvement is a relatively novel concept
in public education, and experts in the field are still discovering
the most effective ways to encourage it.
are not exactly reinventing the wheel here,” said Alma Houston,
Director of Community Services for the New York State Department
of Education, greeting groups of involved parents from around
the State who were in Brooklyn to participate in a workshop. “But
yes, we are definitely doing some serious polishing.”
To achieve that fine shine, the department has been running a
year-long series of workshops and seminars around New York State.
philosophy is: A better-educated parent makes for better public
education,” Houston said. “And the benefit is truly mutual. We
use these parents on our advisory committees and councils for
outside ideas on how to make our schools better.”
The concept for the latest workshop, “The Bone Deep Method of
Parent Leadership and Family Advocacy,” was almost revolutionary.
and throughout history, school involvement in family support was
100 percent deficit-based,” said Virginia Martinez, director of
the Colorado Family Advocacy Center and the leader of the workshop.
school, or other government agencies, would look at the family
that came to them for help and basically tell them what to do.
We are aiming to change that profoundly into an entirely different,
strength-based approach—one that respects and acknowledges each
individual family’s culture, and one that involves the subject
family as a full partner in the process.”
The day-long workshop started with the participants introducing
themselves and participating, under the guidance of Martinez,
in meditation and self-discovery exercises.
journey begins with the self,” Martinez said. “If you don’t respect
and can’t take care of yourself, how are you going to be effective
in helping others?”
During the workshop, parents reviewed effective approaches to
deal with groups. Participants looked at group types, stages and
development, all in the context of how to best empower all types
are teaching people to teach families how they can best help themselves,”
Martinez said. “And that can only be done through respect, confidence
Family support seems to be moving towards a new set of beliefs,
evolving into grassroots, community-based programs. Instead of
the old approach of trying to fix something that’s already broken,
the movement is now aiming to strengthen families before they
must come to the realization that we can no longer afford to neglect
families at risk,” said Martinez. “An investment in families is
an investment in our future.”
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