Schools can build
programs that value
their dreams and
Is Anyone Listening
to Families’ Dreams?
Eileen Gale Kugler
The stately grandmother rose from her chair. She began speaking in Xhosa, her mother tongue, to the other families who had gathered
that afternoon in a classroom in rural
The interpreter did not interrupt
Mrs. Nyati’s impassioned speech. At the
front of the room, I could only stand
respectfully as she addressed her comments to me. We had gathered for a
family engagement program I had organized during my second volunteer stint
at this elementary school in the Eastern
Cape. The families would spend several
32 EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP / MAY 2010
afternoons making a school quilt, with
each family creating a square illustrating their hopes and dreams for
their child. While the families sewed,
they learned about school expectations
and resources in the school and community. 1 At this second session, the
families were sharing what they learned
from discussions with their children
about the children’s dreams.
When Mrs. Nyati finished, I wasn’t
sure what the translation would reveal.
Was she challenging my presence as an
outsider? Did she think the project was
a waste of time and not relevant to the
families’ lives? But as her words were
translated, their central message was
We do have hopes and dreams for our
children, but no one ever asked us before.