Why Our Parents Interview Our Teachers – Chalkbeat | Region & Cash

In First Person, Chalkbeat features personal essays by educators, students, parents, and others who think and write about public education.

“How do you engage parents as partners in your classroom, class and school community?”

Every teacher who interviews at my school has to answer this question. But it’s not me who’s asking; This question comes from our parents.

I am the Founding Director of Rocketship Dennis Dunkins Elementary, overseeing the Stop Six neighborhood of Fort Worth, Texas. We are opening our new school next month but we have started to build relationships with our parents over a year ahead of our scheduled opening.

Clearly, now more than ever, parents want to be involved in their children’s education. And too many schools focus their parenting efforts on what parents can do for the school (eg, fundraising, volunteering, donations in kind). This is important work, but it is not enough. To build true partnerships with parents, educators need to think about what they can do to get parents deeply involved and invested in their school.

Inviting parents to interview teacher candidates at my new school is one of the ways we build partnerships with the parents we serve. By involving parents in important hiring decisions, we draw on their critical insights – draw on their creative power our School.

Many of our parents couldn’t believe it when we first asked them to participate. “Me?” said one parent when we published an open call for parent interviewers. “You want to know what I think of my child’s future teacher? No one’s ever asked me that.” I’ve had parents who thought the teachers were interviewing the parents, not the other way around! And we’ve had Spanish speaking parents who understand spoken English but have never been asked to interfere like that. They couldn’t believe they were being asked to help interview teachers.

Headshot of a woman with short black hair.  She wears a black top with a bow and hoop earrings.

dr Christina Hampton

Courtesy of Rocketship Public Schools

In advance, the parents met with our management team to discuss questions the parents wanted to ask and to discuss the parameters of the interview. On the day of the interview, the parents asked each teacher candidate such questions as how they see the role of parents in their child’s education, how they help each child in their class to achieve something, and how they handle difficult situations with parents. Parents have also shared their own stories of having a special needs child and struggling at school themselves. They have spoken openly about their hopes for what this school can be for our community.

Seeing the parents truly engage in the interview process, asking thoughtful questions and demonstrating to the candidates the power of our collective community filled my soul with joy. After all, a teacher is not just a class leader, but a person charged with engaging and communicating with families.

“You want to know what I think of my child’s future teacher? Nobody has ever asked me that.’

I am a product of the Stop Six community. I attended local district K-12 schools, attended college and graduate school, and eventually earned a PhD in Educational Leadership and Political Studies. I owe a large part of my success to my parents, who supported my education. They knew how to interfere and fight to get me what I needed because they understood how to navigate the system. My mother was a teacher, principal and principal in the Fort Worth Independent School District for over 30 years and my father was an engineer with the Fort Worth Fire Department. On his days off, he was a substitute teacher and often mentored young men at school.

But many parents do not know how to find their way in a complex system or what options are available to their children. Parents shouldn’t have to fight their way into our schools; They should be invited, invited to share their stories and perspectives. Involving diverse parents in our community has helped me make important hiring decisions that will shape the future of our school.

Parents and educators want the same thing: the best for our children. By working together—in hiring, naming our school (after a longtime Fort Worth educator), and choosing our enrichment offerings, our core value, and more—we unleash the power of our parents along with the power of our staff to create a create transformation school.

dr Christina Hanson is the founding director of Rocketship Dennis Dunkins Elementary and a mother of two who will attend school there. A native of Southeast Fort Worth, she knows what it is like to be a student, mother, teacher and principal in the community she now serves. Hanson holds a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Tarleton State University.

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