The Value of Parental Engagement

Dr. Jessie Barrie, Head of School
Since my start date on July 1st, I have had the benefit of seeing firsthand the engagement of our Bosque community in so many different capacities: I have seen you participate in welcome events for me; I have seen you at athletic events cheering on our student-athletes; I have seen you joining us at Convocation on the first day at school; at alumni events; at BPA meetings; in your helpful feedback for various surveys; and most powerfully this year, with such outstanding attendance and engagement at our recent Back-to-School Night.

Your participation and energy in our community are essential to the health and excellence of our school. First and foremost, it shows your children (whether they are current students or alumni) that you believe in their education, in their success, and in their future. There are decades of research showing the significantly positive impact of family engagement on student academic success, social and emotional health, and school strength. Family engagement builds partnerships with your children’s teachers in support of your child’s growth and success. It helps support excellence in our academic mission, program offerings, and access to a transformative education through your Annual Fund contributions. And this engagement provides numerous opportunities to be part of a dynamic, committed community and all the amazing relationships and friendships that can arise.

As those of you who attended the BPA Parent Reception on September 8th heard me say, my personal experience of parental community engagement has been significant to my own story and journey.

Growing up, I attended an all-girls independent school, where I was required to wear a uniform each day. Each summer the school had a used uniform sale where parents could more affordably replace what their girls had so quickly outgrown. My mum showed up at the first sale without me and promptly realized that she had no idea what sized tunic, bloomers, and blazer I would need. She scanned the room looking for another little girl who was about my size. After spotting one, she walked up to the girl’s mom, introduced herself, and asked if she might be willing to lend her three-year-old daughter to match appropriately-sized uniforms to her. Thanks to that connection made in the rows of used tunics, that little girl—now a successful child adolescent psychiatrist—continues as my best friend today. My parents became fast and lifelong friends with Gabby’s parents; my parents became Gabby’s legal guardians; and that relationship carried Gabby and me and our parents through countless life and parenting joys and challenges over the past 40 years.

As a parent to three children myself, the friends I made sitting on the sidelines of my now 18-year-old stepson’s middle and high school basketball games have become cherished members of my close circle. Our relationship arose from our sons’ friendship but has blossomed far beyond that; even as the boys have left for college, we continue to make time to support each other and spend quality time together. My 16-year-old stepdaughter’s best friend’s mom is someone with whom I have a frequent texting stream dating back to the summer before sixth grade. We vent and question and try to wrap our heads around the mood swings and emotional instability that trouble many adolescent girls. We also provide sounding boards to each other's girls when they sometimes can hear advice better from someone other than their own parents. And finally, my four-year-old friend’s parents have become some of our best friends because, at the end of the day, is there anything better than being able to visit with friends and have your young son happily distracted by his buddies for hours on end, actually allowing you the time and space to have an adult conversation?

The point of these stories is to highlight the significant value of making connections with your children’s friends and their classmates’ parents. These people will be walking many of the same developmental, academic, social paths as you and can be a vital source of support and advice when your children can make you feel like you are going crazy.

One of my favorite quotes by an unknown author is:
“Friends in your life are like the pillars on your front porch.
Sometimes they hold you up and sometimes they lean on you.
Sometimes it’s just enough to know they’re standing by.”

I hope that within your Bosque journey you find fellow parents to hold each other up during dark days. People you can lean on when your child seems like a stranger to you, and people who will be standing by to celebrate you and your child’s success for years to come.

I also hope to see you at Fall Fiesta tomorrow night. This is a great place to celebrate the magic of our school and to build and strengthen the relationships you will create and benefit from at Bosque.

All the best,
Jessie
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