When Parent Engagement Supports a Culture of Confidence By Mary Ashkar and Mekhul Verma, HCPA Communications Coordinators
A s parents, we play a lifelong and pivotal role in building our children’s confidence. Studies show that when parents are engaged, educational achievements, self-esteem and overall well-being are higher. By asking questions, understanding Havergal’s values, attending school events, volunteering, making donations and socializing with other parents, we let our daughters know that they are part of a supportive and connected community. This helps our daughters feel important, comfortable and confident in sharing daily challenges and successes. There are many ways and opportunities for parents to be engaged in the Havergal community, both at home and at school. At home, parents listen and ask questions to understand their daughter’s current issue while allowing her to resolve it primarily on her own. According to Dr. Michael Simmonds—Vice Principal, School Life, Operations & Student Wellness—by letting your daughter reach her own conclusions (while being there to provide guidance should she ask), you are showing her that you are confident in her ability to advocate for herself and others. You’re saying, “You can do this, even if the results are imperfect, and that’s OK.” Having the courage—one of Havergal’s values—to solve problems that matter most to them, in a way that is comfortable for them, is important as girls and parents understand that confidence means something different for everyone. Grade 3 student Claudia Flood, for example, recently let a classmate know that she wanted to be spoken to with respect and later shared the story with her mother. At school, parents participate in myriad ways. This includes volunteering, which is organized by the school or in partnership with the Havergal College Parents Association (HCPA). In the younger years, parents help with The Terry Fox Run, picture days and in the Learning Hub. Last year, the Junior School held its first bake sale, linking school and home life as parents, caregivers and daughters baked goodies to fund the Junior School robotics program. In the Upper School, parents are involved with Career Networking, a speed-dating type of event that the school hosts every two
years, where girls ask questions about career journeys. Of course, Celebration Saturday is another great example of how the school and parents work together to benefit our community partnerships. Parents also show interest by attending a variety of school events, with or without their daughters. These include Music Nights in the Upper School, Christmas concerts in the Junior School, Grade Rep Meetings and the annual HCPA Luncheon in November. Mother-Daughter Games, Mother-Daughter Breakfasts and the Father-Daughter Dance bring Upper School caregivers, family members and students together in casual settings. Many girls sing, play instruments or speak at Prayers, affording parents another opportunity to show support and connect with the school. Coffee mornings, parent socials and the ever-popular Junior School Mom’s Night Out provide casual venues for parents to meet and learn more about their daughter’s friends and families. On the academic front, engagement includes listening to teachers speak about the upcoming school year at Curriculum Night and attending parent-teacher conferences. Seonaid Davis, Vice Principal of Teaching & Learning, encourages parents to attend guidance events (look for sessions in January and February on anxiety in children and the progress of girls as they grow) and raise concerns with teachers and administrators about their children. Often, a simple clarification helps a family understand why something is being done. Leslie Anne Dexter, Head of Junior School, emphasizes the importance of approaching the school with any questions: the more informed a parent is, the more accurately he or she can share the Havergal story with other parents, creating a community and family with common goals, language and values. Taking the time to go to athletic games is a way of showing parental and family support while affirming our daughter’s commitment, passion and hard work. Havergal’s Rowing team is an excellent example of an active and tightly knit community that exists largely off-campus, where parents and girls arrange carpools to and from the waterfront and spend weekends nourishing and cheering on the athletes at weekend-long regattas.