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Critical Issues in School Reform

 

S T O R I E S  O F  P U B L I C  E N G A G E M E N T
The Patrick O'Hearn School

I. About the Program | II. On-Line Activities | III. Viewer Activities | IV. Resources


III. VIEWER ACTIVITIES

A Viewers' Workshop

This workshop is designed for educators or others interested in viewing the video as the start of an ongoing, in-depth discussion about public engagement in their school or community, but the outline can readily be adapted to your particular situation. (For example, parts 1 and 2 can be used to structure a more general conversation about the video.) The workshop takes between one and a half and two hours, including the 30-minute video.

Part 1: Preparing to Watch the Video (15-20 minutes)

Before viewing the video, invite participants to discuss a few of the following questions:

  • What does public engagement mean to you?
  • How could family involvement help increase student achievement?
  • What can schools do to encourage family involvement?
  • What can schools do that discourages family involvement?
  • What is a role for families in understanding school and student accountability?
  • What are ways to measure the impact of family involvement on student achievement?
  • What resources are needed for family involvement?

Part 2: Watching the Video (30 minutes)

Ask participants to consider the following questions as they watch the video. Make clear that these questions will be discussed after the video.

  • What roles do you see parents playing at O'Hearn?
  • In what ways do parents share the role of teacher in this school?
  • In what ways do you notice school personnel interacting with parents at O'Hearn? Can you tell who are the teachers and who are the parents?

Part 3: Discussing the Issues Raised in the Video (45-60 minutes)

The purpose of this discussion is to gain a deeper understanding of the work of O'Hearn and the issues that it raises about public engagement. It offers a way to begin a conversation about the implications of this work in your own school or community.

Ensuring a Good Conversation:
A Few Basic Groundrules
  • Identify a facilitator and a timekeeper.
  • Set norms for the discussion. Be sure all participants have an opportunity to understand and agree to these norms. They may want to add others.
  • Focus on the video and the discussion in it. Refer to specific examples from the video in your discussion.
  • Build on what others say.
  • Listen carefully and do not "step on" one another's talk.
  • Converse -- no need to raise your hand, but don't interrupt either.
  • Expose and challenge your own assumptions.
  • Watch your airtime.

Present or elicit several focus questions for the discussion. Here are some suggestions.

  • What excites you about the story of O'Hearn?
  • What did you see happening that made you think you might do something differently in your own school?
  • What did you see happening that you hadn't thought was possible?
  • What could your school do to get more parents involved in meaningful decision making?
  • What could your school do to help teachers work with parents and communities as partners?
  • Did watching this video change your definition of public engagement? In what way(s)?
  • What might be the benefits to your school of engaging the community in decision making?
  • Teachers and parents at O'Hearn are focused on serious student learning and achievement issues. Why is this important? How can this be difficult sometimes?
  • Which of the following characteristics of successful public engagement initiatives (based on research by the Annenberg Institute) did you see at O'Hearn?
    -- inclusive, in-depth dialogue
    -- dedication to real improvement in schools
    -- commitment to creating dynamic partnerships
    -- working to find common ground
    -- candor and mutual trust

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An On-going Dialogue about Public Education in Your Community

Public schools are crucial to the sustained vitality of American democracy, and a supportive and involved public is crucial to the survival of public schools. For many, an ongoing and open discussion about their public schools is an important first step toward greater involvement and action on behalf of children and public education. Such a dialogue enables everyone to share their views, find common ground, and ultimately work toward the kind of community consensus that is a vital part of American democracy.

Study Circles Resource Center (SCRC), a program of the Topsfield Foundation based in Pomfret, Connecticut, helps local communities organize and conduct meaningful conversations on difficult issues, including race, diversity, social justice, education, and community revitalization. For information about forming a Study Circle or to request technical assistance for a community initiative, contact SCRC at 860-928-2616.


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