Title

From the Principal’s Desk: Inclusive School Environments for Students and Families

Location

Ballroom E

Strand #1

Family & Community

Strand #2

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Relevance

From a principal’s perspective and experiences, “HOME” and “HEAD” embody the tenets of this presentation by addressing difficulties that families face when attempting to be accepted into school culture because of a perceived “deficit.” What some families did not have—their lack of the specific qualities, characteristics, or social positions associated with the middle and upper classes—often pushed them outside the parameters that school personnel defined as “good families.” This perception further compromised meaningful school-family connections. Communication between school and home, when laced with resistance on both sides, created greater mistrust and increased difficulties for the students. Focusing on what parents and students lacked, rather than what they possessed, hobbled efforts to create a more inclusive school environment.

Brief Program Description

As a principal, I witnessed the difficulties and frustrations many families endured when interacting with school personnel to comply with rules, procedures and expectations. Sometimes subtle and often obvious, the disheartening mistreatment cast additional burdens as they navigated schooling. For all audiences, this presentation will:

  • Highlight how community ideology defines expectations
  • Provide examples of silencing and alienating
  • Offer suggestions for improvement through culturally relevant pedagogy

Summary

Located in the rural Midwest and lacking diversity beyond socioeconomic class and ability, the local systems of beliefs, views and cultural practices—ideologies—directed the flow of what was acceptable, valued and honored. The rules, customs, and procedures strongly influenced schooling by determining what was important and necessary for students to learn and procedures for achieving such. These “legitimiz[ed] forms of knowledge, ways of speaking, and ways of relating to the world” (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1993, p. 76) caused frustrations and difficulties for many families as they interacted with school personnel. The result was the permeating of practices through a largely unspoken yet recognizable representation of what was valued.

Embedded in the taken-for-granted rules, interactions, and activities of schooling, this “hidden curriculum” created a subculture of learning and knowing (Aronowitz & Giroux, 1993; Beane, 1990; Jackson, 1990). The unacknowledged affirmation of values and ideas reinforced existing patterns of power and subordination between social groups, thus sustaining inequality. Because students in these families lacked the “proper” clout—financial, educational-experiential, and/or social-cultural, they were often subject to some degree of mistreatment. By failing to examine the ideas and values that underpin judgments concerning how others look, act, talk or think, we validate the notion that what is, is what should be, and we teach our students to do the same. The result is an ongoing exclusion of those who fall outside what is acceptable. The barriers can be virtually insurmountable for some families.

This presentation focuses on the ways that school cultures influence and impact the treatment of students and their families. Explorations of real-life examples provide obvious and hidden interactions to illustrate how some families must clamor to be accepted in a culture that has seemingly little regard for them. Suggestions for improvement through the use of culturally responsive practices will be discussed in order to provide meaningful ways to accept and include families who “lack” the needed clout.

Evidence

Using qualitative research methods and findings from lived experience research (van Manen, 1990), phenomenology (Patton, 1990) and narrative inquiry (Clandinin & Connelly, 1994 & 2004), the content of this presentation is based on school situations and people and describes how misperceptions, misinformation and a narrowly defined understanding of “others” can have crushingly negative effects on families. The situations and examples resulting from this research reveal the importance for school personnel to use sound decision-making in the treatment of students and parents. Research on marginalized families (Delpit, 1995; Ippolito, 2012; and Ladson-Billings, 1994,) calls for the need to “broaden adult stakeholder relationships within schools,” (Ippolito, 2012, p. 3) through constructive dialogue in order to close the gap between school and families. If we fail to do so, we excuse ourselves from further effort on the grounds that “this is just the way it is.” Thus, we passively participate in practices and discourse that provides the consistency and tradition of comfort, disregarding those who fall by the wayside.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

As a professional educator and researcher, my research agenda focuses on social justice issues related to students, schools and schooling. I explore the hidden dynamics that make school life difficult, alienating and silencing. My publications, conference presentations, and university teaching encompass understandings and knowledge gleaned about and from school settings. Focusing my efforts towards providing educators with awareness and knowledge, my expertise draws upon lived experience, life history research and current literature on teaching and learning, student affect and school climate and culture.

Keyword Descriptors

family, marginalized, relationships, culturally relevant pedagogy

Presentation Year

2016

Start Date

3-9-2016 11:15 AM

End Date

3-9-2016 12:30 PM

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Mar 9th, 11:15 AM Mar 9th, 12:30 PM

From the Principal’s Desk: Inclusive School Environments for Students and Families

Ballroom E

As a principal, I witnessed the difficulties and frustrations many families endured when interacting with school personnel to comply with rules, procedures and expectations. Sometimes subtle and often obvious, the disheartening mistreatment cast additional burdens as they navigated schooling. For all audiences, this presentation will:

  • Highlight how community ideology defines expectations
  • Provide examples of silencing and alienating
  • Offer suggestions for improvement through culturally relevant pedagogy