Improving diversity of parent involvement – La Chât Country Representatives

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Michiel Van Lith tells En Bref about this new initiative to improve diversity and inclusion of parents in the school community.

The challenge……

Being an involved member of international school communities for the past 9 years, I have learned that bringing diversity within the more active part of the community is one of the big challenges.

Of course, language will always be an obstacle. Native speakers of the community’s main language will naturally take lead. Even though the language is mastered, it will still be harder for non-native speakers to fully bring out their personality in a satisfying way and be as pertinent, witty and sharp as they would be in their mother tongue.

Cultural differences also play a role. School involvement by parents, to the extent experienced in many international schools, seems to be a particularly Anglo-Saxon phenomenon. In my neck of the woods in North-Western Europe, the involvement of parents usually ends with lunch duty, reading out loud and permanent in-school head-lice patrols – combing children’s hair and checking their jackets! More extensive tasks for parents, or, for instance, fundraising in every form would be frowned upon, since our socialist background prescribes that education should be paid for and very well organized by the government with tax-money.

My own experience…….

Personally, I embrace the opportunities the school and the community are giving me to be busy. After quitting my full time, 2 decade, career to become a stay-at-home parent, becoming active in the school community gave me a outlet to channel my excess energy in a very pleasant way. In the meantime it turned out to be the best way to meet a wonderful range of the most interesting people.

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La Chât plans to improve diversity……..

Although the nature of our school and the demography of its population and of its host city, already gives us a great diversity of open-minded, internationally oriented families from all over the world, improvement is always possible. The coordinators of La Chât’s Parent Teacher Association, in close deliberation with the school’s leadership, have decided to make the creation of an even more diverse and inclusive parents and teachers community within La Chât one of our main targets.

Creating a team of country representatives is one of the means by which we hope to achieve this goal. Country representatives can work in teams, or represent a larger language, or cultural, area than delimited by national borders. The main tasks of the country representatives consists of:

  • Welcoming new families to the community in their own language.
  • Being present at PTA events to encourage diversity of involvement.
  • Organising regular (half-yearly) coffee mornings.
  • Organising national holiday get togethers, if so desired.
  • Promoting and supporting a home-country booth at the Kermesse.

The position is new for this school year, so many things will still have to take shape. We are learning as we go along and we hope for lots of input from everyone involved.
At this point we have 23 very enthusiastic country representatives (and a couple of equally enthusiastic ‘male trailer’ representatives!). Strangely, some of the more obvious nations are not represented yet, so we are still looking for people to volunteer.

Your Country Representatives…….

  • USA – Dacia Snider and Valerie Dorman
  • Canada – Michelle Morneau
  • Spain – Elisa Marzo Perez and Isabel Llanos
  • Latin America – Stephania Bonilla
  • Australia – Jo Perry
  • Germany – Ute Eilenberger and Ruediger Hamann
  • Netherlands – Bianca Wieffering
  • Sweden – Emma Nordlund
  • Norway – Jon Albert Risahage
  • Finland – Heini Utunen
  • South Africa – Vic van Vuuren
  • Male trailers – Anthony Swan and Jan Paul Olijslager
  • Malta – Linda Said
  • Arab countries – Shelly Bustion
  • Ireland – Vanessa McCarthy
  • India – Satya Smith
  • Japan – Sachiko McCreight
  • Hongkong/China – Emily Lee
  • Portuguese speaking countries – Eduardo Serrano, G Francisca Calheiros and José Rodrigues

If you would like to connect to your Country Representative or if you are interested in becoming a La Chât Country Representative, please contact me at mvlith@gmail.com.

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