Author Bio: Joni Carswell, LivingTree Chief Community Officer.  Joni lives in Austin, TX with her husband and two sons who are into superheroes, anything with wheels, heavy machinery, and general demolition and destruction.  She enjoys watching her boys discover the world, sharing the great outdoors with her family, running, and delivering technology that can positively impact family life and education.

I want a vacation.

A seemingly simple statement that resonates with most, yet with it comes with a variety of interpretations and definitions. For me it’s a morning in the mountains, breathing the cool air and hearing nothing but nature. Someone else might have meant the sights and sounds of a new and exciting city, or the sand and warm sun on a beautiful beach.

I want parent engagement.

Another simple statement and yet another multitude of paths and meanings.  A year ago, I might have thought that defining and delivering on parent engagement was simpler than it is.  In reality, there are many different perspectives, definitions, and ultimate goals.

Developing a platform aimed at delivering the capabilities to simplify engagement, communication, and coordination has afforded me the opportunity to speak with and listen to thousands of parents and teachers and hear many sides of the parent engagement discussion.

What follows are the top desires I’ve heard from parents and teachers across demographics.  You will see that the overall desire is universal and simple:  I want parent engagement.  Peeling pack the meaning, however, shows that engagement may be mountains, beaches, cities, or all depending on who is asked.

I want parent engagement.

What the parent means:  I want my child to be happy and smart, and I want to help.

  1. I want to know my child is happy.
  2. I want to know my child is keeping up with their peer group.
  3. I want to know what I can do to make the school experience better for my child.
  4. I want to know where I’m supposed to be, what I’m supposed to bring, and have time to do it properly.
  5. I want to be talked to…not at.

What the teacher means:  I want parents to join me in making their children, my class, and our school successful.

  1. I want parents to reinforce what I’ve taught in school.
  2. I want parents to join me in the education process, not question me.
  3. I want parents to trust that their child is learning and happy at school.
  4. I want to spend my time teaching, not coordinating.
  5. I want parent teacher conferences to be part of a continuing conversation…not a stressful, one time check-in.

Despite the differences, what’s most exciting is that parent and teacher end goals are the same: a happy, educated and successful child, which ultimately delivers a successful class and school.

So, how do we bridge the teacher’s need for continuing education lessons at home, easier parent coordination, and time for teaching with the parental need to know their child is happy and learning?

I believe technology offers us an option (and I’ve seen it work!).  Today’s technology capabilities give us the opportunity to create a virtual window into the classroom allowing teachers and parents to take the journey together by way of shared photos, messages, assignments, events, etc.  A picture shows us that our child is happy and learning, but even more, it shows what they saw on the field trip or during the science experiment and allows us to ask deeper questions to continue the learning at home.  Quick messages from the teacher about the focus for the week or learnings from the day allows for the same deeper exchange with our children.  These simple photos and messages allow for a deeper conversation at our next parent teacher conference and show me just how much goes into the education of my child each and every day.  Better use of technology allows for the end result of parent engagement to be equally rejuvenating regardless of whether it’s a mountain, city, or beach for the teacher or parent.