K-12 Parent Co-op & Teacher Co-op Schools

Parent Q&A

  • Hi All, 

    I've seen a lot of posts about parent participation pre-schools, but I would love to hear about your experiences in Parent Participation schools for older (elementary school) children. I'm interested in hearing both the good and the bad. Parent participation seems to work well with toddlers and younger children, but what is it like as the kids grow older and their lives grow more complicated? Is it difficult to watch your child as they engage in the usual (or more difficult) social and academic struggles? Have you encountered parents who become overly involved, either with their children or with other children in the class? What is the dynamic like between the parents? Between the parents and the classroom teachers? Have you found that the motivations of other parents at school align with your own motivations for staying involved at that level?

    Thank you in advance for taking the time to share your experiences with me! 

    You didn't receive any responses so I thought I would reply. K-8 co-ops are unusual, so that may be why no one responded. To my knowledge, there is only one parent co-op elementary school in the East Bay: Crestmont School in Richmond. I don't have experience with Crestmont, but my three kids went to parent co-op preschools, and then went on to attend a variety of public and private elementary schools, including Walden School in Berkeley, which is a teacher co-op, where decisions are made collectively by the teachers rather than a director.  All of my kids' elementary schools invited or even required parent participation at some level. Typically there would be one or more parents helping out in the classroom, especially in lower grades, especially at the public schools. I never observed the "hovering parent" that you might see in a preschool co-op, or parents chit-chatting while in the classroom. The day is much more structured in elementary school, and the teacher is firmly in charge. Teachers also tend to have a more professional relationship with parents compared to preschool. Parents who help in the classroom are given specific tasks, such as taking the kids to the library, or sitting with a child who needs more practice reading.

    For me, it was fun to be in the classroom occasionally - I worked so I couldn't do it often. I liked getting to know the kids, the teachers and the other parents. Were some parents too involved? Sure. There were parents who seemed to be at the school every day. But they were doing things that I didn't have time to do, that the school needed someone to do, and I appreciated that.  Did other parents' motivations align with mine? Not always. Collectively my kids attended 6 or 7 different schools through high school, and there was not one school where I felt I was completely in tune with all the other parents. But that was never a problem for me as long as my kids were happy and learning and growing. 

    The one thing I would be concerned about, regarding co-ops, is something I observed at the two co-op preschools my kids went to. Parent volunteers took on some roles that, at non-co-op schools, would have been filled by a director or other paid staff. In some cases parents had decision-making roles in administrative matters such as hiring and firing, curriculum, hours, and how money is spent. This sounds democratic, but in practice it could be disruptive. It was dismaying to find that the qualities that had attracted our family to the preschool in the first place could be dramatically changed mid-year if this year's crop of well-meaning parents wanted something different. If I had it to do over again, I'd still choose a co-op preschool but I would ask more questions about administration and decision-making!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Questions:


Pros & Cons of Cooperatives

Dec 2003

To parents thinking about sending their child to a school that is a teacher cooperative (like Walden and Berkwood-Hedge for instance) or a parent coop (like Crestmont). Others have pointed out the advantages of these alternative structures, but there can also be disadvantages. One can be that if you have a serious disagreement or conflict with your child's teacher it may be very difficult to figure out who to speak with after you have tried and failed in working with the teacher directly. Such difficulties are often hard to resolve by talking with other teachers (the peers of the teacher in question). Lindsay


The parent commenting on the potential disadvantages of communication and conflict resolution when dealing with teacher cooperatives has a good point, but mistakenly lumps Berkwood Hedge in this category.... (see Berkwood Hedge for the rest of this message.)