All In Together at BFEP Family Reunion

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A Recap of the First BFEP Family Reunion of the 2013-14 School Year

Chauncy and Grace Coleman-Burns at the BFEP reunion with daughter Ella and son Chauncy.
Chauncy and Grace Coleman-Burns attended the BFEP reunion with daughter Ella and son Chauncy.

Family Engagement is a buzz term in the education world. But what do we think of when we say it? Clearly, many understandings of Family Engagement exist: Does it look like parents showing up to parent-teacher conferences? A mom chaperoning a school field trip? What about a grandfather getting his granddaughter to and from school every day?  A big sister helping her little brother with his homework? A family member assisting a teacher in the classroom or sitting on the decision-making board of a school?

To me—and according to the philosophy of the Boston Family Engagement Partnership— true family-school engagement is all of these things and more, and the scene at the first BFEP Family Reunion of the 2013-14 academic year was one of the most powerful forms of this type of engagement. We reconvened BFEP Fellows and Administrators along with family and community partners for an evening of sharing, listening, learning, and thinking about the best ways to improve family-school-community relationships in the best interest of all of our children—and ultimately the best interest of our societal well-being and future!

During the evening, we reviewed learnings and accomplishments from our first year, heard plans for the development of our family-school engagement mobile app and a Fellow’s presentation on her school-based work, and engaged in lots of conversations between the different partners present.

We closed the whole-group session by watching a short video clip of a father and his 10-year-old son being interviewed about their relationship as it pertains to the son’s education and future ambition. Though only about four minutes long, the video spoke to the importance of our work together on multiple levels; we heard the father-son pair talk about the positive impact of high expectations, the importance of clear school-family communication, and the ambition and pride inspired in children by their family members’ involvement in their educations. The clip resonated deeply with the audience and left a number of us in tears.

After the whole-group session, administrators from partner schools provided input on our partnership thus far. In addition to speaking to the increased visibility of family members in their schools, additional family events, and considerable movement in the direction of school-wide prioritization of enhanced family-school engagement, administrators also spoke of the remarkable growth they’ve seen in the BFEP Fellows. The administrator conversation demonstrated that the Partnership has been the catalyst for some benefits outside of the goals we established explicitly. This news is incredibly rewarding, but also gives me inspiration to get going on the much work left to be done!

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