by Virginia Murray
Following retirement from IBM after 30 years, Peter Perez
thought he would spend the rest of his days playing golf in the
Florida sun. So what's he doing making coffee in the Parent Resource
room of an elementary school in Palm Springs?
Not long after retirement, Perez returned to school to earn
his Masters in Special Education, which led to a position at
C.O. Taylor/Kirklane Elementary School in Palm Springs, Florida.
Taylor/ Kirklane is a Title I school. This puts the school in
line to receive federal funds for various opportunities, including
having a Parent Liaison. Perez took on this special assignment
in 1996, and the programs he's been using for parents have been
a Haitian Creole version of Active Parenting Today devised
by the district, and the new Spanish version, Padres Activos
It's been a tremendous success, he reports. Other
programs aren't bad, but for some reason the parents really enjoy
Active Parenting Today.
Part of the reason is that, while other programs tend to focus
on academics, Active Parenting Today really helps
parents to help their children in day-to-day situations.
Perez has several reasons for appreciating Padres Activos
de Hoy. For one, it's not just a direct translation
of the English version. Parents feel very comfortable with it.
Dr. Popkin has been sensitive to the fact that people
want to be able to relate to what they are seeing, rather than
just fitting themselves in.
Perez acknowledges that translation is always a challenge
when dealing with Spanish speakers. At his schools there are
parents from several Latin countries, including Puerto Rico,
Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. The Spanish translation
of Padres Activos, he
says, has really hit it right on.
Perez publicizes the workshops by sending home flyers in the
three major languages used by his students: English, Haitian
Creole and Spanish. The state provides an interpreter for Haitian
Creole parenting classes (which have around 30 parents per group),
but the bilingual Perez is able to handle the others on his own.
Since the Spanish program is so new, the number of parents
attending groups has been low so far. Part of the problem, notes
Perez, is that the Spanish parents for the most part have
two or three jobs and just don't have time to come to a class.
Culturally, too, mothers are the ones who are expected to take
care of child-rearing. My goal is to get more fathers involved.
If they work at night, I'll have classes in the morning, or on
Another way Perez reaches out to parents is through a Wednesday-morning
program called A Second Cup of Coffee. It is essentially an open
house in which parents are invited to the Parent Resource Room
for coffee and doughnuts. It's very important for me to
develop a relationship with the parents, Perez says. Many
had negative experiences with school and teachers in the past,
and they've had enough of that. The Second Cup event offers
an informal opportunity for parents just to drop by and chat
with staff members. It helps, notes Perez, that
my background is roughly the same as theirs, so I know where
they are coming from.
And that, he says, is one of the most important keys to the
success of a parenting group. If a facilitator is willing
to share personal experiences, rather than just saying `this
is the right way and this is the wrong way,' the parents are
more open to listening.
Reprinted from Leader magazine.
Copyright 1998 by Active Parenting Publishers, Inc.