Opportunity Talk

Introduction to Opportunity Talk

Here’s a PRINCIPLE of Opportunity Talk for equity: Talk so opportunities to learn get shared widely (and to meet needs), not just with some.

In the schools you know, are people communicating so necessary opportunities get to all the young people who need and deserve them? And are all the people who need to be included in Opportunity Talk actually included?

In this section of schooltalking.org, we’ll post resources that help include, in opportunity Talk, all the people in a community with ideas and energy for getting opportunities to young people.

THINK/DISCUSS

Let’s start an Opportunity Talk Inclusion Plan for a school you know! Create three columns.

  • In the first, consider: to pursue equity, Who in this school/classroom/community needs to communicate what opportunity-related information to whom? (How often? When?) (Consider necessary information out and input in. Like, “More parents need to know about afterschool options in the community,” “math teachers and families need to discuss necessary precollege coursework,” or, “families need to share their take on supporting the homework we’ve been assigning.”)
  • In the second column, consider: What are the barriers to needed communication about improving opportunity, and how could those barriers be overcome? (E.g., “We haven’t typically discussed community programs at family events,” “math teachers don’t have time in the school day to meet with parents to discuss precollege course options,” or “not all families with ideas about the homework feel comfortable sharing their ideas at parent meetings.”) 
  • In the third, ask: What channel (face-to-face, paper-based, or technology-based communications) might allow necessary communications about improving opportunity to occur? (“Handout, phone message, and email home in Spanish on tapping local afterschool options,” “stipend staff to hold school-family Math Night on precollege courses,” “face-to-face dialogues with small groups of parents about their family’s experiences with the homework.”)

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In The OneVille Project in Somerville, MA, parents started a Parent Connector Project enabling Opportunity Talk across language groups in a multilingual school community. (The district had forty-two home languages recorded at the time, with three dominant languages other than English.) The Parent Connectors wanted to figure out how to “connect” their English-dominant school to the many parents who spoke Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Spanish, particularly by tapping the bilingual skill of local parents. They also wanted to tap more parent input on improving school and to build relationship across divides of class as well as language.

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One Principle of equity-oriented Schooltalk is to talk so opportunities to learn get shared widely (and to meet needs), not just with some. To do that, school communities need to design inclusive and ongoing dialogue about increasing and spreading necessary opportunities to learn – particularly, with all groups of parents. Ann Ishimaru’s Equitable Parent-School Collaboration website is a gold mine of tools and resources for folks looking to design true parent-school collaboration. Check it out!

Here’s a takeaway I got from one of Ann’s research articles:

In one Oregon town, as Ann Ishimaru describes, community leaders began organizing events for Latino parents, starting with Spanish-based workshops that helped parents build relationships, “understand their rights and the public education system,” and strategize how to advocate for their children in conversations with educators and other parents. Then, over time, Mexican mothers “who had been timid and afraid to talk in the group prior to the training programs” soon started facilitating the programs for other parents. Eventually, district and school administrators started sitting down with the parents to learn from them about supporting the increasing numbers of local children learning English. “I didn’t know virtually anything about ELLs, but I knew I could be a learner, and I needed to learn about the community’s needs,” said one elementary director.

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What do educators need to know, discuss, and do to support undocumented students? “An estimated 271,000 undocumented students are enrolled in the California K-12 public school system” alone.

As William Perez says in this youth-produced PBS story, teachers need tools: “They’re in desperate need of information about all the legislation. Teachers go online and they will Google things, or they will find out about Webinars or they will find out about something that — where they can go and sort of educate themselves. But it’s being done in a very unsystematic way.”

Here’s a solution Perez helped develop: the nation’s first Allies of Dreamers Certificate Program. “The courses train educators how to support undocumented students transitioning to college and into the work force." It’s an amazing example of getting more systematic about necessary conversations. Check it out!

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Seeking model language for school anti-discrimination and sexual harassment policies, and policies protecting trans students and immigrant students? NEA Today has lots of examples here.

Keeping students safe to learn = protecting their right to learn!

“In the face of federal civil rights rollbacks and threats, educators, parents and students are organizing to adopt school board policies that strengthen student protections. Get inspired by educators and students making change in their communities and find model policies that will empower you to ensure all students’ right to a safe and affirming school.”

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“What are your hopes and dreams for your child’s education?” Here’s a great story of a parent-teacher home visit done right.

Once reluctant, dad Paul Lumpkin now widely shares the power of home visits: “who knows what’s best for our children other than us?”

Thanks to Karen Mapp for sharing this video originally. I have tapped Karen Mapp’s book Beyond the Bake Sale for a million more school-family communication ideas. Check out her new book: Powerful Partnerships!

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