Bringing Parenting Into Schools
By Robert Schroeder
Parenting is tough, the experts agree. Anyone who disagrees may risk physical harm from a parent nearby.
Yet when kids flounder in school, parents are often the easy scapegoat. In 2010, an Associated Press-Stanford University poll on education found that 68 percent of adult Americans believe parents deserve heavy blame for what ails the U.S. education system.
Of course, what people think is true and what is actually true can be radically different. And no parenting manual contains the foolproof list of preparing a child for school.
National Louis University's educational psychology program is reaching out to Chicago-area parents through the Incredible Years program, an evidence-based program that fosters collaboration between school psychologists and parents to identify parents' needs and reach mutually-satisfying solutions. The educational psychology department's Center for Learning has begun implementing the program in the Waukegan, Ill. school district at the start of the school year, bringing school psychologists, National Louis student interns and parents together in one program.
"We can have the best curriculum in the world, the fanciest classrooms and technology and the best trained teachers, but unless kids come to school ready to pay attention and to learn, we are not going to be effective," said Kim Adamle, Ed.S., assistant professor in the National College of Education and director of the Center for Learning. "The best way to do that is through working with parents."
The parent program within Incredible Years includes three components. National Louis students are trained to work with parents through the program, professional development is offered to current school psychologists, and National Louis faculty and students are offering direct service to parents and families.
National Louis students are immersed in three years of training in the program. In the first year, students learn the details of the program and observe other students in action. In year two, students work as facilitators with parents alongside National Louis faculty. In the final year, students complete their internship independently as leaders in the program with tangential supervision from faculty.
Students focus on building individualized approaches to working with parents. The key to the program's success is relationship building and creating an environment where parents feel comfortable discussing their vulnerabilities with the student school psychologists. Students use video vignettes to illustrate solutions, while parents engage in role play to hash out real-world actions and wordings.
"It doesn't matter what educational level one has or how many years you have been in school," Adamle said. "They don't have to read about it, we don't use fancy words, and seeing it in action is a powerful way of teaching people from any background."
The Center for Learning is running the Incredible Years project concurrently in the Evanston school district and is planning to start a weekend program with a group of Polish students and their parents at the University's North Shore campus.
National Louis students credit the program with deepening their ability to build deep relationships with parents and to create positive differences in the lives of Waukegan students. For Adamle, giving National Louis students an opportunity to connect theory to practice is a critical component of the Center for Learning's role.
"When schools talk about working with parents or parental involvement, it usually has involved telling parents what to do or what they should be doing," said Adamle. "The wonderful thing about this program is that it is collaborative and a non-expert model."
Adamle and the Center for Learning will use the fall semester to collaborate with Waukegan to choose the appropriate schools to work in and finalize the district's exact needs.