Archer School for Parents brings guardians into the classroom


Photo credit: Archer Communications

Chinese teacher Pei-Ying Gosselin teaches parents introductory Chinese phrases during the Archer School for Parents language learning event. She said the lesson gave parents a similar experience to connect to their child when their child has questions or struggles in class.

By Lucy Williams, Voices Editor

When Archer language teachers walked into the classroom Friday, Jan. 20, they didn’t expect to teach their normal, uniformed teenage class. This time, Archer parents sat at the desks, ready to learn about their child’s curriculum.

The new Archer School for Parents program is a series of events and resources that inform parents about their daughter’s education and development. Associate Head of School Karen Pavliscak organizes this program to engage the parent community.

“Parents renewed their curiosity by watching their students learn in real time. Parents are more connected to how students learn. Parents are more interested in how schools work,” Pavliscak said. “Archer School for Parents draws parents into a partnership with the school to help inform them in a disruptive, dramatic time on being the best possible stewards of their daughter’s minds and spirits.”

Beyond in-person events, the program will host Zooms, record podcasts and record webinars to accommodate all parents. Reminders for upcoming events are included in the weekly “This Week at Archer” emails.

Pavliscak said with the prominent risk of anxiety and depression due to social media, it was critical that Archer informed parents how to support students’ wellbeing. Archer’s Innovative Learning Coordinator Malia McClurg hosted a Zoom meeting focused on social media addiction Monday, Dec. 12. She presented research about screen time from the novels “Dopamine Nation” and “Behind their Screens” and offered tips for navigating the digital world. 

“We, as adults, are also facing the same addictive nature of phones and apps, so we partnered together to reflect on ourselves while working against the persuasive designs that companies use to lure us into endless scrolling,” McClurg said. “You don’t need hard and fast rules that never change. A family can ask, ‘What would it be like if we didn’t have phones at the table or went out and left our phones at home?’ Doing these trials will help them see how to change things in their world.”

The Archer School for Parents’ second event was a world language class Jan. 20, where parents attended a 60-minute simulation of their child’s French, Chinese or Spanish class. In the first half hour, they learned about Archer’s language learning method: a combination of linguistics, grammar, community culture and traditions. For the second half hour, teachers gave a beginner lesson.

Chinese teacher Pei-Ying Gosselin led a lesson around introductory phrases and traditions in Lunar New Year, and she said there was a difference in teaching parents versus students. 

“It can be harder for adults to learn languages,” Gosselin said. “They all come with an enthusiastic attitude, but they’re worried: ‘Is the teacher going to judge me?’ Most students use the target language to do whatever you ask them, but parents think, ‘Will other people say I’m bad?’ That can hinder them from quickly absorbing the language.”

Gosselin said this experience was important for parents to equip them with cognitive empathy for their children. 

“When parents attended this lesson, they didn’t necessarily understand every single sentence I said but just needed a general idea,” Gosselin said. “Now, when the students come home and say they don’t understand the language teacher, the parents can connect with their kids. They understand not feeling confident in the language class, but know to try their best to learn from their peers and eventually meet their teacher’s goals.”

The program’s next event will be a panel with Athletic Director Kim Smith about being a female athlete in the modern world. Later this year, the program will host a presentation with the Artemis Center and “A Walk in the Garden,” where the sustainability class will serve school-grown food and talk about regeneration in environmental activism.

“One of the things I love most about Archer is the students,” Pavliscak said. “But their parents are a close second, as we are the Archer School for Families. We don’t just teach students; we have really creative and curious parents, so to invite them to learn with us and us learning from them takes education to the next level.”