Exclusive Author Interview: Dr. Deborah M. Vereen

The premise of this book is further substantiated because increased value has been placed upon involving parents and other family members, as well as other primary caregivers, as critical partners in the process of education in recent decades. Although the list of research-based and mandated strategies and programs is nearly endless throughout the United States of America, a few concrete examples that demonstrate the importance of these parental involvement efforts are presented here.

Q. What are your favorite literary journals?

At this phase of my professional journey, I find literary fulfillment on the blog and internet hosting platform called Medium.  

Being both a member and writer gives me an opportunity to learn from most gifted writers who represent varied genres that I have ever been exposed to Medium writers. The writers have also provided engaging writing tips and have empowered me to become a stronger writer. 

As a frequent contributor, it has given me a unique platform to develop my voice to not only raise awareness about the importance of family engagement, but to embrace my global mission, which is to Ignite Family Engagement In Education.  For me exclusively, being a Medium writer has enabled me to position myself as an expert on the topic of family engagement more robustly so that my reach becomes more impactful.
Medium has also resulted in being able to read for pleasure.  I have also been able to form literary relationships with other writers who share a like-minded voice with me.  Being able to interact with these writing colleagues by commenting on their work or clapping, which likes what we read on Medium, has been impactful, especially when reciprocity exists.

Q. What is the most challenging part of your artistic process?

My artistic process has been equally challenging and frustrating.

Despite the fact that increased levels family engagement in education is critical to the education of children and young people and even though the benefits of having parents who were engaged extends into adulthood, the topic is one that lacks popularity.  Individuals concerned about educational issues consider family engagement as important but not important enough to be high on their priority list. Even though some individuals may have children and grandchildren, reading about family engagement is not that relevant to some.  Educators, even those who lack adequate levels of family engagement within their environments, are too consumed with two types of fear to embrace the information that I advocate for. One fear is associated with the misconception that increasing family engagement will override their profession because parents will simply take over.  The other fear is associated with employer discovery.  Many educators do not want to strongly promote change within their professional environments or subtly advocate for it by way interacting with information on social media because of the concern that being a proponent may jeopardize their jobs. They do not want to be found out.  So, they shy away from advancing the family engagement initiatives. The bottom line is, despite its significance, family engagement is just not appealing and interesting enough. Here lies my challenge and frustrations.
I have embraced the reality of my unique mission.  It will only be accomplished through hard work and perseverance.  I will not give up. So, in addition to my self-published book called “Repair the Broken Pieces:  A System to Awaken Positive Relations between the Family and Educational Provider through Engagement Fusion”, I must be diligent about spreading my message on varied platforms.  I developed an e-learning course called “Increasing Family Engagement for Educators by Repairing the Broken Pieces”.  It is affordably priced at $150 to enable educators who work in under-resource environments to be able to take this nine-hour, 11 module transformational course that will increase family engagement.  In addition to blogging on Medium, I spread my message on my social media platforms. Finally, I happily seize opportunities to participate in podcast interviews, such as the one attached to the link below:

All of my efforts are found on my website at:  

www.Drdeborahmvereen.com

Q. If you had to do something different as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?

I sometimes believe that being afforded an opportunity for an educational do-over would have enabled me to not only be a dynamic writer, but would have propelled me to higher career heights.  Here is my backstory as it relates to writing.

Attending the urban junior high and high schools in the state of Pennsylvania that I did represented my literary and learning downfall. I only had a handful of English teachers that I would even classify as an average at best.  Being a formal teacher and school administrator, I know how critical supervisory feedback is to professional development of teachers.  At no time do I ever remember any principal walking into any of my classes or formally observe any teacher. Back then, before any effort to reform schools or to improve instruction, teachers did as they just pleased in the classroom.  I vividly remember that some failed to teacher. Others fed me meaningless worksheets day after day as they sat at their desk doing nothing related to providing me with a rigorous education. I still have the capacity to provide the names of these pathetic so called “teachers”.   The real problems came when I was enrolled in my English classes during my junior and senior years.  My eleventh grade English teacher gave vocabulary words and definitions for students to copy and be tested all year.  As the elderly teacher presented her usual set of vocabulary words, I remember vividly thinking one day, “what does haughtily contemptuous really mean and what does it have to do with me???”  I really remember this.  My senior year was no better.  The teacher could not control the students in my class.  So, being the “good” student, I was the designated one to watch the class when she left because she could not take it anymore.  That unspoken code between the teacher and me meant that I did not have to do any classwork for the favors I freely gave.  Despite this, I still received straight A’s. So, I did not have to complete the required senior term paper that students struggled to complete without any instructional guidance provided by the teacher.  I remember that the students taught each other how to complete the term paper. These experiences in my final high school years caused a very huge problem for me later.

When I enrolled in college I did not know how to write, even short essays.  I lacked the prior knowledge to tap into be able to formulate a cohesive sentence.  So, the initial struggles that I experienced in the freshman composition class along with other courses were real and traumatizing.  However, my freshman composition professor, Mrs. Jeannie DeFoe made a positive difference for me.

Many autumn afternoons immediately after class, Mrs. DeFoe took me outside of the beautiful campus to a bench to help me compose myself and refocus.  It was during those times that she taught me the basic mechanics of writing. Mrs. DeFoe also encouraged me to believe that I could become a good writer. Because of the support that one professor gave me, through practice, I exceeded what I thought was enough to get through college by being a good writer.  

Years later, I located Mrs. Defoe and wrote her a letter to thank her.

Q. What was your hardest scene to write?

I have had to write about some very difficult topics as I have drawn attention to issues that have obstructed family engagement efforts in education.  These have included:

  • Reflecting on my journey to write my book and exposing the reality that here are some educators that do not want parents to be engaged in the educational process involving their children.
  • Writing and publishing articles and responding to current events related to schools, students, teachers, and learning that permeated social media and had an adverse effect on family engagement.  Some of these Medium articles have included: “Too Undeserving To Continue To Be Teachers”–this is about the teachers and principal who posed and smiled while holding a noose; “Unique Student Learning Needs Cannot Be Dangled Over A Toilet:  The Most Disgusting Pace to Learn and the Loose the Trust of a Parent”–this is the story of a special education teacher who moved a student’s learning environment in a bathroom and the child’s desk directly over a toilet even though the learner had special needs; and “There’s So Much News About Student Behavioral Problems In Schools:  But There Is Silence About the Role Parents Must Assume in Correcting This Serious Issue”–this article addressed the severe student behavioral problems in some school in the state of Iowa.

Q. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I have always been a quiet, humble, and reserved individual, even throughout my profession as teacher, professor, and school and district administrator.  Because of this, I was always fine with letting the outcomes of my work speak for me. I remained fine with the former organizations that I worked for as well as key leaders receiving credit for all of my hard work and dedication because what I did was for students. 

Now that I am fully committed to functioning as a family engagement influencer, I finally discovered the power of my voice.  Very surprisingly, this discovery was made recently, and I like it.

Q. By saying “Engagement Fusion” What do you mean with that?

I have great respect for multicultural researcher Dr. Sonia Nieto.  She developed the levels of multicultural education to help others understand how diversity is embraced.  According to Sonia Nieto, individuals grow their capacity to become multicultural or culturally component by:

  • Moving away from a Monocultural or singular perspective while interacting with others
  • Gradually accepting differences through tolerance
  • Accepting others through a willful act of approval
  • Respecting others by holding them in high esteem and honoring them
  • Affirmation is the emotional acknowledgement, encouragement, support extended to others

I adapted this research to develop a framework to build family engagement.  In doing so, I classify mono culturalism and tolerance as very negative educator traits that prevent authentic parent and teacher relationships from developing.

Instead, I focus on the powerful levels of acceptance, respect, and affirmation as the critical elements required by educators to establish genuine relationships with parents.  When integrated together, acceptance, respect, and affirmation create what I refer to as engagement fusion. 

I define engagement fusion as: 

“the process of blending and saturating all the powerful components of acceptance, respect, and affirmation into all protocols related to educational providers working with parents, guardians, and the primary caregivers as a cohesive team for the benefit of student growth and development.”

Engagement fusion is what sets me apart as an author who promotes family engagement by accentuating relationship building in a researched based and unique manner.

Q. If there’s a book that is similar to your work, what it is?

There are many authors who are immersing who write books about family engagement.  Many others integrate information about family engagement in books that pertain to other topics.  I do not know of a book similar to my body of work.

Q. Its not easy to raise children well. What is the key to it?

I believe that there are a few keys to raising children well.

First of all, a parent or parents must establish raising children well as their priority.  Parents should not allow distractions including their unique desires and longings to interfere with doing the best job that they can in raising their child.  Parents who are seekers, those who spend a lot of time engaged in entertainment on social media and those who search for fulfillment in their careers, in various relationships, or other things that do not value their children as very important, are distracted. 

Secondly, parents should never rely on surrogate means to raise their children.  Early childhood and basic education professionals should not be expected to raise children.  Material things that occupy the time of a child cannot replace what a parent should do in raising well-adjusted, happy children.

Next, a parent must instill a sense of goodness and purpose in the hearts of their children.  For me, this is reflected in my relationship with the Lord as a Christian. These religious values and principles are being instilled in my child in various ways other than by attending church regularly.  As a parent, I teach my child by the example that I am.    

Another key to raising children well is for a parent to maintain a selfless disposition.  To me, it is critical to put the needs of your child ahead of your wants and desires. Parental sacrifice is important to raising a child well.

Finally, I believe that it is critical to form genuine partnerships with the individuals who work with children educationally and developmentally.  Parents must be open to allowing trust to grow between themselves and the educators. In doing so, parents should never be in denial as it relates to possible behavioral and mental health concerns that teachers bring to their attention. Failing to following through with recommendations for an assessment or evaluation when a trained professional believes that it is warranted may produce devastating consequences in the child’s future.  

This is what family engagement is all about.

Q. How can parent combine authority with giving children freedom?

I believe in the gradual release of responsibility.  To me, this simply means that a parent maintains the authority over a child and gradually releases it until the child demonstrates their capacity to maintain a level of freedom.  This is conducive to the child’s age, level of maturity, and the level of trust that exists between the parent and child.

Q. What is your preferred method of conflict resolution?

My preferred method of conflict resolution in all phases of my life is to engage in open communication.  Being able to talk about problems that exist respectfully is the best approach for me because doing so is more consistent with my personality. 

About the Author:

Dr. Deborah M. Vereen is the CEO of Families with Us LLC and has been an educator for more than thirty-five years. She credits her family and consumer sciences instructional content area for providing her with a solid foundation for establishing and maintaining substantive relationships with the parents of the students that she served. Deborah functioned as Principal and Adjunct Professor of Multicultural Education at the graduate level during this at two different universities. She also worked as the Director of Pupil Personnel Services and Assistant to the Superintendent of Family and Community Engagement and Volunteerism.

Deborah received her basic education within the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Her undergraduate degree was obtained at West Virginia Wesleyan College while her graduate and doctoral degrees were earned at Duquesne University, where she studied school administration and educational leadership. Deborah is an extremely proud mother of a precious daughter who is enrolled in middle school and is the constant source of her motivation and inspiration.

The Repair the Broken Pieces is available via Amazon.