Good teachers have always tried put the learner first, but the learner at the center of the learning process (something that seems obvious), is not so easily realised in practice.
Stakeholders in my professional community include parents and families, teachers and staff members, administrators, community members, local business leaders, and elected officials such as school board members, city councilors, and the Ministry of Education. Stakeholders are also collective entities, such as local businesses and organisations, advocacy groups, committees, media outlets, and cultural institutions, in addition to organisations that represent specific groups, such as the teachers union, parent-teacher organisations, and associations representing principals and school boards. Basically anyone who has a personal, professional, civic, or financial interest or concern!
In my school shared leadership allows for the creation of leadership roles and decision-making opportunities for teachers, staff members, students, parents, and community members, while community voice refers to the degree to which we include and act upon the values, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds of the people in our community. We take on shared leadership responsibilities at school, to give voice to ideas, perspectives, and opinions especially during team, staff or school-board meetings.
Stakeholders also play a role in community-based learning, the practice of connecting what is being taught at school to our surrounding community, which may include local history, literature, and cultural heritages, in addition to local experts, institutions, and natural environments. Community-based learning is also motivated by our belief that all communities have intrinsic educational assets that educators can use to enhance learning experiences for students, so they are necessarily involved in the process.
Increasingly, my school is being more proactive about involving a greater diversity of stakeholders, particularly stakeholders from disadvantaged communities and backgrounds or from groups that have underperformed academically, including English-language learners, Maori and Pasifika, immigrant students, and special-education students. In our case, the Student Achievement Focus (SAF) grant requires the involvement of multiple stakeholder groups as a condition of funding.
We advocate for more inclusive, community-wide involvement in our school-improvement process. By including more members of our school community in the process, we can foster a stronger sense of “ownership” among the participants and within the broader community. In other words, when the members of our community feel that their ideas and opinions are being heard, and when they are given the opportunity to participate authentically in a planning or improvement process, they feel more invested in the work and in the achievement of its goals, which will therefore increase the likelihood of success.
Our school decile is reasonably high (6) but many of our students are living in low income households (generally city apartments) and are from diverse cultures. It is widely acknowledged that higher income and wealth provides access to a wider range of life experiences and to resources that can support learning .
To quote from a recent article by Duncan and Magnuson (2013, pp.15- 16):
“Compared with children whose families had incomes of at least twice the poverty-line level during their early childhood, poor children complete two fewer years of schooling, earned less than half as much money, worked 451 fewer hours per year … and are nearly three times as likely to report poor overall health.”
Many of our children come to school tired, hungry, and cold, wearing inappropriate clothing and often they are coming to school unwell (or not at all). We do have Milk for Schools and a system where the school will provide morning tea and lunch but this often takes money away from other areas like Information and communications technology (ICT).
We are unable to supply one to one ICT devices and even after introducing Bring Your Own Learning Device (BYOLD) we found that most of our families could not afford them. This makes it difficult to introduce further change initiatives that are technology based.
Another factor is home learning. We do not promote homework as such but encourage our students to have a reading logs and read with caregivers at home. When families are recently arrived immigrants with little or no English this can also prove challenging.
How we meet some of these challenges affects our practice. On Tuesdays and Thursdays after school I will take 5 “target” students to the school library where we use the computers to complete tasks on Reading Eggs, Mathletics and Spellodrome. I also meet with the parents of these students twice a term to discuss strategies we employ to increase their exposure to ICT. While this does plug some gaps there are still many students missing out on learning opportunities.
This site provides a number of ways the parents and the community can help resolve some of the issues.
Every Child Counts. (2015). Child Poverty. Retrieved October 7, 2015, from Every Child Counts: http://www.everychildcounts.org.nz/resources/child-poverty/
Duncan, G. and Magnuson, K. (2013) ‘The importance of poverty: early in childhood’, Policy Quarterly, 9 (2), pp.12-17
The Glossary of Education Reform. (2014). STAKEHOLDER. Retrieved October 7, 2015, from The Glossary of Education Reform: http://edglossary.org/stakeholder/