The Best Parent Workshop I’ve Ever Done

This little gem of an idea, came to the Digital Literacy Team at UWCSEA via Robyn Treyvaud, who had been visiting our school to work on the initiation of our generation safe project. Robyn’s idea – so obvious I don’t know why we hadn’t thought of it before – was to include students in the evening presentation to parents about social networking.

We created a sign up sheet for our workshop, and asked parents to outline the sort of things they were concerned about and/or what they wanted to focus on. Below is a Wordle of parent concerns.

My colleague Jeff Plaman asked which students in the class he was teaching would be interested in sharing how they use social networking with parents. He got at least 10 students who were keen to help out. I must stress that students were not pre-selected – we only asked for interested individuals, and we didn’t prep them as to what to say. Rather, we provided them with talking points to which they responded.

We scheduled a meeting at lunchtime where we shared a wordle of parent concerns, and they talked about their responses to the concerns, and explained to us the different ways they use social networking. It was fascinating just listening to them. At one point during the discussion, I thought, “We should be videoing this!” so turned on PhotoBooth (all that I had available at the time!) and listened.

Here are some short segments from that video which show the sort of things they were saying.

The following day, we had a huge turnout from parents. We sat one or two students at each table with parents, and did a brief presentation from the school’s perspective.

We encouraged parents to ask the students about their concerns and turned it over to the kids. It was amazing to see the positive body language of the parents, and see how engaged both groups were in listening and talking with the other.

We asked for some verbal parent feedback at the conclusion of the session, and received some very lovely comments from the parents. One parent said from his discussions with the student at his table, he learned he needs to trust his children more, and involve himself in what they’re doing. Others spoke very highly of the students involved, and said it was much easier to talk to someone else’s child about these sort of issues than have conversations with their own children. That said, they now felt more comfortable about initiating the discussions with their own children.

One of the most touching things I saw was one of our Grade 10 students giving the parents at her table her email address, with the words, “If you have any more questions, just send me an email.” How great are our students?!

Have you tried having students at your parent meetings? Do you have suggestions to share?

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