Culture shift happens over time with small learning moves. Studies have shown that students’ sense of belonging, engagement and achievement improve when parents play an active role in their children's education. Schools get better when parents are actively involved. At John A. Leslie Public School, staff have been intentionally focused on creating more spaces to provide opportunities for parents to exercise their voice and contribute to school improvement.
As lead learner, Principal Sara Gogani’s professional learning goal is to identify barriers to student and parent engagement in order to determine specific actions needed to further develop an accepting school culture of inclusionary practice.
This shift in thinking about parents as true partners at John A. Leslie is happening in small moves. In 2017, in collaboration with the Community Support Worker and School Council, the school collected data from parents about their interests and how they would like to contribute to students’ well-being and success.
That is when Roy Dantas, a parent at John A. Leslie, approached the school with a great idea. He offered to partner up with a teacher and provide a group of students with an opportunity to develop hands-on problem solving skills. Brad Parolin, a grade 5/6 teacher, quickly recognized that Roy’s passion and expertise in the engineering and design process could have a significant impact on students so the two collaborated on creating an after school Robotics Club.
The club which runs once a week after school with predominantly female students has enabled students, staff and parents to see the value of hands-on learning in a relaxed environment where students feel comfortable to take risks and see the benefits of collaboration and perseverance.
“We love the Robotics Club. Roy got us these new kits and it’s good that Mr. Parolin has help so both of them get to experiment with us and help us when we get stuck” says grade 4 student Rafeeya Tasnim,
“In the past, I didn’t believe how much my involvement could impact my own thinking about our school and how one hour a week could impact a group of kids’ learning experience. These kids are growing to think like engineers. None of this could have happened without the welcoming environment of Mr. Parolin. We had to have a good connection and relationship for this to work. Kids see it and feel it, when there is an equal amount of excitement from the teacher” remarks Roy Dantas, John A. Leslie parent.
Effective and sustainable parent involvement requires intentional effort by various staff. Teacher Brad Parolin expresses “It’s great to have a parent share their expertise with students. The kids get excited to see their parents problem solving and helping.”
There’s also Naghma Ershad who recently immigrated to Canada and is passionate about instilling love for reading and supporting the Bengali community. Her involvement includes supporting the school’s goal of early years reading strategies with identified students, as well as providing translation for some of the families.
“I had a great schooling experience because my teachers taught me to say what is on my mind, to say the truth and to stand up for myself and others. I felt empowered especially, as a girl and that’s what I want to see in my daughter. I think all parents should get involved in the school even if it’s for 15 minutes. Parents need to realize that they share in the responsibility of their children’s schooling. Language should not be a barrier, especially at John A. Leslie where so many different languages are spoken” says John A. Leslie parent Naghma Ershad.
At John A. Leslie, staff recognize the importance of small moves to create new spaces for students and parents to make the school more accepting and inclusive of all voices.