Why our parents interview our teachers

First Person is where Chalkbeat features personal essays from educators, students, parents, and others who think and write about public education.

“How do you involve parents as partners in your teaching, your classroom and your school community? »

Every teacher interviewing at my school has to answer this question. But it’s not me who asks; this question comes from our parents.

I am the founding director of Rocket Dennis Dunkins Elementary, serving the Stop Six neighborhood of Fort Worth, Texas. We’re launching our new school next month, but we started building relationships with our parents more than a year before our scheduled opening.

It is clear that parents want to participate in the education of their children more than ever. And too many schools focus their parent engagement work on what parents can do for the school (eg fundraising, volunteering, donating supplies). It is important work, but it is not enough. To build true partnerships with parents, educators need to think about what they can do to engage and deeply invest parents in their school.

Inviting parents to interview teacher candidates at my new school is one of the ways we build partnerships with the parents we serve. By involving parents in critical hiring decisions, we tap into their critical insights – tap into their power – to shape our school.

Many of our parents couldn’t believe it when we first asked them to participate. “Me?” a parent said when we made an open call for parent investigators. “You want to know what I think of my child’s future teacher? No one has ever asked me that before. I’ve had parents who thought teachers would interview parents, not the other way around! And we had Spanish-speaking parents who understood spoken English but had never been asked to weigh in like that. They couldn’t believe they were being asked to help interview the teachers.

Portrait of a woman with short black hair.  She wears a black top with a bow and hoop earrings.

Dr. Christina Hampton

Courtesy of Rocketship Public Schools

Beforehand, parents met with our management team to discuss the questions parents wanted to ask and to go over the parameters of the interview. On the day of the interview, parents asked each teacher candidate questions such as how they perceived the role of parents in their child’s education, how they helped each child in their class to succeed, and how they handled situations. difficult with parents. Parents also shared their own stories of having a child with special needs and struggling in school themselves. They expressed their hopes for what this school can be for our community.

Watching parents truly engage in the interview process, asking thoughtful questions, and demonstrating the power of our collective community to applicants filled my soul with joy. A teacher, after all, is not just a class leader, but someone responsible for engaging and communicating with families.

“You want to know what I think of my child’s future teacher? No one has ever asked me that before.

I am a product of the Stop Six community. I attended local district K-12 schools, went on to college and graduate school, and eventually earned my doctorate in educational leadership and political studies. I attribute much of my success to my parents who advocated for my education. They knew how to push through and fight to get me what I needed because they understood how to navigate the system. My mother served for over 30 years as a teacher, principal, and principal in the Fort Worth Independent School District, and my father was an engineer with the Fort Worth Fire Department. On his days off he was a substitute teacher, often mentoring young men at school.

But many parents don’t know how to navigate a complex system or even what options are available to their children. Parents shouldn’t have to fight to get into our schools; they should be invited, invited to share their stories and their points of view. The engagement of various parents in our community has helped me make critical hiring decisions that will shape the future of our school.

Parents and educators want the same thing: the best for our children. Working together – hiring, naming our school (after a long Fort Worth educator), and by choosing our enrichment offerings, core values ​​and more – we unleash the power of our parents alongside the power of our staff to create a transformational school.

Dr. Christina Hanson is the founding principal of Rocketship Dennis Dunkins Elementary and the mother of two children who will attend school there. Hailing from southeast Fort Worth, she knows what it’s like to be a student, mother, teacher and principal in the community she now serves. Hanson holds a doctorate in educational leadership and political studies from Tarleton State University.

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