A new school year doesn’t just mean new students. Parents and caregivers are part of the classroom community too. Family engagement is a critical component of students’ success in school. Building strong relationships with your students’ parents will help maximize students’ success. These four strategies will help you develop strong home-to-school connections, which in turn will promote greater student achievement.
1. Regular and Active Communication
Good communication—even before the school year starts—is key to encouraging families to become actively involved. Send a welcome letter at the beginning of the year to introduce yourself as well as to make parents aware of class rules, goals, and routines. Throughout the year, send regular updates on how students are doing, and give them notice of upcoming tests, projects and activities. To make sure communications are reaching busy parents, use a variety of communication tools from email and text messages to a class web site or blog. Old fashion paper notes sent home with students still work too!
Be sure to personalize your communications. This will help you make authentic connections with parents. Remember to be sensitive to students’ different situations. You may want to use the phrase “caring adult” in cases where a student is living with a relative other than his/her parent. Also be aware that English may not be some parents’ first language or they may not know much English at all. Use free, online translation tools to help bridge the gap. The translations may not be perfect but families will appreciate the effort to keep them informed.
Parents and caregivers need encouragement too, so congratulate them on the progress their children are making and thank them whenever they volunteer or are otherwise involved in the classroom. Make a big deal when a student reaches a goal by sending home an achievement certificate.
2. Elicit Input
Families are much more likely to be engaged if they know that their opinion matters and that they play a role in defining goals for their children. Give parents a chance to set goals and voice any concerns about their children. Ask for their feedback and show that you value their participation with regular followups.
3. Bring Parents into Your Classroom
Invite parents and caregivers to come to your class for a special project or activity. You can tie the activity to skills you’d like parents to be encouraging at home. A social and emotional activity such as Calm Down Yoga is something families can continue to do together at home.
4. Make Parental Engagement a School-wide Priority
One of the best ways schools can promote parental involvement is by engaging parents in the education process in meaningful ways. Stress the importance of active parents in your school’s mission statement. Besides the usual parent nights/open houses, try hosting a workshop that communicates the importance of an active parent and defines their role in promoting their children’s academic success and social emotional development. Additionally, you may want to create a parent center (either a physical space on campus, or a virtual space such as a chat room) where parents can meet to share ideas and get advice.
Give these tips a try in the coming school year. Strong parental involvement will make your job easier and is a surefire way to promote students’ success.
Have something to add? We’d love to hear from you! Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.