We are proud to share this guest post written by Justin Johnston, Head of Schools at Anne Frank Inspire Academy, reflecting on how families deserve choice in schools and the opportunity to make their voices heard as students prepare to go back to school during a constantly changing pandemic.
The power of choice and voice are human rights that intrigue us at Anne Frank Inspire Academy. As an open-enrollment public charter school, we believe not only in the right to choose where your child attends school, but also in the right to maintain your voice.
During the 2020–2021 school year, we were able to give families the power to choose not only whether to attend our school but also how they attended. We empowered families to decide to attend virtually or in-person daily. At the start of the year, that choice seemed overwhelming and daunting; however, as the year progressed, this choice went from being novel to a realization: “Of course you should have that choice!”
Don’t get us wrong; we believe that the best education happens on campus with students fully engaged, but we also understand parents and families deserve flexibility. While the current state procedures do not allow for this type of choice for the upcoming year, AFIA is committed to empowering families’ voices in the future. One way we will do that is through intentional parent communication and parent involvement to establish a cooperative relationship.
School Communication Is Essential to Parental Involvement
Parent communication is a hot topic in education. Schools spend a lot of time and energy trying to create effective communication with parents, while parents spend time and energy trying to find ways to interact with their child’s school and be a part of the learning process. What is often lacking is a clear definition of what both parents and schools desire as outcomes. Here at Anne Frank Inspire Academy, we want our parents to participate in the conversation with us regularly, and create open lines of communication.
Let’s dive further into what effective parent communication looks like, sounds like, and feels like. AFIA believes the answer begins in our families’ voices. It looks like us providing a variety of ways for parents to offer feedback and suggestions. We cannot expect our parents only to listen; we must give them opportunities to be heard and build a strong relationship with them.
Parental communication must look like a genuine two-way relationship between school and families. Too often, schools practice this belief that we have all the important information and parents should just listen, establishing one-way communication with a student’s parents instead and creating communication challenges. This assumption leads to a lopsided conversation missing crucial details being discussed in the home. To accomplish a more fluid conversation, AFIA believes the best way is to ensure an open dialogue and not just a one-sided school monologue.
Below are a few of the best practices AFIA implements to maintain genuine communication with families to create positive relationships:
- Before making significant campus decisions, we send surveys to families seeking insight and feedback.
- We offer an official parent Facebook group to support parent engagement on social media, and so family members can ask questions, express positive experiences, and voice concerns in a safe place.
- Our school administrators host weekly Facebook Live video conversations with our families to provide the latest information and school happenings, and answer questions in real time.
- All parents and students have unique logins to our AFIA Treehouse Family Portal featuring news, academic lessons, grades, calendar, resources, and messaging system to stay in touch with your child’s teacher.
- Regular student-led parent-teacher conferences where they can share their learning portfolios and school experience with their parents.
Ensure Your School Has the Courage to Hear You
Authentic communication feels just like one would expect: scary, nerve-wracking, and perhaps overwhelming. It is also freeing and healthy. We need to be clear that we do not change with every conversation or seek to appease every parent. Some parents will leave difficult conversations upset because we didn’t change a decision or a direction, but they will not leave being unheard.
Our responsibility as a campus is to stay true to our vision, ensuring students’ parents can make an informed decision about their child’s education. Parents’ responsibilities are to provide guidance and direction regarding whether we are achieving or moving toward that vision. Ultimately, our wish is that providing real communication on a regular basis leads to involved parents having a continued voice after deciding where to attend.
As you return to either our campus or another with the start of the school year, education will only improve if we find an effective way to establish two-way communication. As a parent, you should feel empowered to take an active role with a school that has the courage to hear you. We encourage you to not only choose where you enroll your children, but also to choose to use your voice in your school community.
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Ruben Carrillo, Ph.D., Principal at Anne Frank Inspire Academy NW Military, and Justin Johnston, Head of Schools at Anne Frank Inspire Academy, speak about how families deserve choice and creating effective parent-teacher communication with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on August 3, 2021 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.
Ruben Carrillo, Ph.D., is the Principal at Anne Frank Inspire Academy NW Military.
Justin Johnston is the Head of Schools at Anne Frank Inspire Academy, and a dedicated educator with more than 19 years of experience.
Read More About Anne Frank Inspire Academy
- “New campus opening at San Antonio charter school; enrollment open,” Sharon Ko, KENS 5, May 27, 2021
- “The Anne Frank Inspire Academy Summer Experience,” San Antonio Charter Moms, May 2, 2021
- “Anne Frank Inspire Academy Reopening Plan 2020–2021,” San Antonio Charter Moms, September 1, 2020
- “Learning That Matters: Using an Inquiry-Based Learning Approach at Home,” Justin Johnston, San Antonio Charter Moms, July 22, 2020
Read More About Back to School in 2021
- “Incarnate Word Virtual High School Offers Catholic Online School for Girls,” Anne Schaefer-Salinas, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 18, 2021
- “Safely Learning Together: IDEA Public Schools Students Are Back in School for 2021–22,” San Antonio Charter Moms, August 17, 2021
- “Prelude Prep Welcomes Students for Its First School Year on San Antonio’s Southside,” San Antonio Charter Moms, August 9, 2021
- “All About the Royal Public Schools Campus,” San Antonio Charter Moms, July 15, 2021