Searching for New Ways to 'Inspire' Parents

The life of a parent coordinator is one of constant challenges. Taneesha Crawford, who works in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods, blogs about her experiences.

I was approached with the opportunity to become a parent coordinator at South Bronx Preparatory in June of 2008 when my son was in the 6th grade.

At the time I was a director for Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club, running an after-school program located in a homeless shelter.

From a very young age I have always loved to be hands-on in any creative process, and I am always willing to help those in need.

When the opportunity presented itself to me to become a P.C., I thought to myself, “This will be my time to inspire adults and have a little fun in the process.”

Taneesha Crawford

Education is very important and surely every parent wants to know what goes on in their child’s school and stay connected. Well, I had my work cut out for me. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the challenges that I would go through to achieve such a small, and what I considered simple, task.

I work in one of the poorest urban counties in the country. This saddens and scares me for many reasons. I was raised in this community and schooled here, in District 7, more than 25 years ago. What has changed?

Have the rules changed? Have schools changed? Or have parents changed? I ask myself this countless times a day. The answer is always the same: “I don’t know.”

As a parent coordinator, the main focus of my job is to keep parents engaged and informed. With financial challenges, and a majority of parents with different educational and ethnic backgrounds, trying to get even 20 parents to a monthly PTA meeting proved harder than trying to get into a sold-out Lady Gaga Concert.

Over the years I have tried many things -- some have worked and other ideas just didn’t fare so well. I am always trying to come up with new and creative ways to keep parents engaged.

A few initiatives that have proven successful for me include hosting a Monthly Parent Breakfast that usually happens on the first Friday of the month. It’s a way for parents to connect with each other, meet some of the teachers and also find out what’s going on.

I kicked off this month’s breakfast with a focus on parents logging on to ARIS, and I brought in an organization that gave them information on going back to school.

The Department of Education introduced the ARIS system two years ago and most parents have no idea what it is. It can be a tool that could keep parents as well as teachers on the same page with a lot of things, but instead it just sits there.

I figured one way to get parents more educated about ARIS and to motivate them to use it is to strip away their fear of the computer. So I have started working with a small group of parents and teaching them basic computer skills and computer literacy. My personal goal is to have at least 100 parents logged on to ARIS by the end of January 2012.

The responsibility of being a parent coordinator is not an easy one, and sometimes I feel defeated, but I know that no matter how small the steps or how many things I try I can’t give up on our students or their parents.