Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Another gentle reminder: Share your ideas!

Today nine JIS parents attended the council's first of six open forums on the perception audits that took place last year. It was an underwhelming turnout, but maybe with the long weekend, the short notice, and the promise of more forums to come, the stars just weren't aligned for a bigger crowd.

The obvious question: what might that low turnout signal? Based on only one forum, it's definitely too soon to draw any conclusions. But as parents, we should be worried that if the low turnouts continue, council may conclude the worst: that parents just can't be bothered.

(I don't for a minute believe that's true. I'd guess it's more likely that parents are just not used to being asked for their opinions in a meaningful way. Or it could be that parents have volunteered their views in the past, but have been ignored so many times that they've thrown up their hands in despair and checked out of the discussion. But that's a whole 'nother issue.)

Okay, so if you're reading this thinking, "hey, wait a minute. I'm going to a forum," then I have two things to say to you:
The second bullet requires some explanation. Forum participants should be ready to articulate their views about the issues outlined in the executive summary. Here's why: the forums begin with an overview of council and governance, then a brief explanation of the research results. Following that explanation, you'll be asked to write down your thoughts on the identified issues on post-it notes. Unless you're great at thinking on the fly, this can be daunting.

The post-it-note-concept is actually a cool way for council to collect input. It allows council to capture our thinking on paper without risking misinterpretation, and it gives even the most quiet, shy group members an avenue to share ideas. But the key is that attendees are prepared when they arrive at the meeting, because there's not much time for reflection.

So what can you do? Read the research report in advance (available through council's site on the JIS ParentNet) -- and yes, with a pen in your hand! While you're reading, underline points you find most interesting or provocative. Put a question mark next to parts you don't understand or think need clarification. Put a star beside the ideas you agree with. And make notes in the margins when things pop into your head. (Teacher tip: this is called annotating the text, and its a great way to read actively!)

Lastly, ask yourself, "what doesn't the report talk about that's important to me as a parent of a JIS student?" Write those things down!

Then when you attend a forum, you'll be ready to quickly write down your ideas on post-its. I'm hoping that future forums will allow time for some dialogue and interaction. After all, it's the discussion that makes us smarter, because it forces us to explain our own thinking and consider ideas that we might not have thought about -- or even disagree with. Plus, dialogue is collaborative, which is always a good thing!


At 10:22 PM, Anonymous Yoli Peevey said...

Thanks, Cheryl for sharing your thoughts and especially for recommending that owners COME PREPARED to the forums. When owners attending the forums have read and digested the executive summary beforehand, they are better able to enrich the findings of the owner perception audit, which is exactly what Council is hoping for through these forums. Keep encouraging the troops!


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