"Connecting" Cultures

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(Also cross-posted at Connected Principals)

Last week, I had a chance to meet with some parents from our school, and plan an upcoming 60-minute meeting in April – only this is not going to be like any other meeting we’ve had in the past. On Monday, April 23rd, our Home & School Meeting will be broadcasted over the web from the local Mosque. 

We’ve been offering Home & School 2.0 (live-steaming Home & School Meetings each month) for almost a full year now, enough time to work out the kinks, add new components and begin maximizing the potential of this once a month parent meeting. Before we began broadcasting the meetings online, our attendance was around 10-12, and not a very good representation of a school comprised of 600 students and 22 different languages spoken at home. At last month’s meeting, we had 16 parents and teachers in the physical meeting (in the library), and another 33 tuning in from their home or work using a free web-conferencing tool. Teachers chime into the meetings from home to offer gratitude for parent efforts, share something happening in their class or grade, and partner in various agenda items. Our family engagement strategies aim to meet parents and teachers “where they are” in respecting a lack of time, babysitting needs and vehicle access for these monthly meetings. We continue to build these efforts on the strength of relationships between home and school.

We’re always looking for new ways to bring together our many distinct but valued cultures. At school, it’s easy – students are blended into classrooms in all grades. To connect the parents, however, is a bit more difficult. By hosting a meeting at the local mosque, it provides an opportunity for extended relationship-building, perspective sharing, cultural competency and overall home-school engagement. I am incredibly thankful for my Home & School Association leadership, as well as the leadership at the mosque for their commitment to connecting our cultures and in turn, role-modeling these efforts for our students.

*It’s important to note that this event isn’t an isolated one. Our school team has developed a relationship with the mosque over the past several years. Past efforts have included a Back to School Day on a Saturday to provide school awareness and solicit feedback, as well as engaging in “cultural clarity” conversations from time to time with mosque leadership.

As leaders, it’s our job to be aware of and implement the tools available to keep our schools and families connected – especially the ones that don’t require a purchase order.

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