Monday, December 30, 2013

Getting Parents Involved

Parents are the first teachers.  Beginning at an early age, parents read to their children, talk with their children and instill a love of learning.  Once our children begin in school, how do we keep parents an active partner in developing the learning of their children?

1. Keep open lines of communication
Communication is key for helping to initially get parents involved and keep them involved.  Through the use of newsletters, schools can narrow the information gap.  In the schools I have worked at, either as a teacher or an administrator, I have seen daily newsletters, weekly newsletters, and monthly newsletters used to share school happenings, school celebrations and school information.  We can't assume families know what to expect.  As a parent of a kindergartner this year, I have received many emails with information about school traditions which I know very little about.  Take the time to clarify and describe so everyone is on the same page.  One of my mentors sends articles to the families on a monthly basis.  These articles provide opportunities for families to learn and grow.  He accompanies these articles by including a personal story to show he is an educator, a parent and is still learning all the time.  Adding this personal touch makes some families more willing to read, learn and grow together.

2.  Invite them into school
What better way to have parents be involved than to invite them into your school.  Whether it is through a curriculum night, family event, or volunteering, getting families into the school is key.  For some families, school was not an enjoyable experience because school did not work for them.  It is our responsibility to create an environment where all families feel comfortable enough to be at school.  As a community of learners, we need to provide families to come and observe the many different learning opportunities and reasons for celebrations throughout the year.  One of the schools I work at has fireside chats for Veterans Day.  We invite veterans to come and talk about their experiences while providing an opportunity for our students to ask questions and learn from their experiences.  The other school I work at has a welcome committee.  When a new family joins our community, we have parents and teachers reach out to welcome them, student ambassadors to show them around school, and additional families to follow up after a few weeks to see if they have any questions.  We want our families to feel welcome at our school.  What ways do you invite your families into school?

3.  Tap into parent talent
Our families have many talents which can enhance our school experience.  On a monthly basis, we have our parents can sign up to come and speak to our classes.  We ask the parents to share what they do and how school helped prepare them for their job.  These monthly opportunities again allow the parents to be in the building while sharing their talents.  Based on these conversations, we have had parents help us as a staff based on their talents and profession. What talents do your own families have that can enhance your own school experience for your students?

4.  Use technology to hook them
The best way to reach parents is use the tools they are using on a daily basis.  There are so many tech tools out there to help parents stay connected.  Here are just a few we have used (or intend to use in the coming months): facebook, twitter, remind101, school apps, touchcast for video messages, QR codes for curriculum and class schedules, online data notebooks through GAFE, broadcasting PTA meetings (coming soon), shutterfly classroom pages... the list goes on and on.  What tools are you using with your families?

5. Ask questions
How often do we ask families for feedback?  When you do ask for feedback, how do you share their feedback with the masses and how you plan to work toward their feedback?  At our last parent-teacher conferences, we asked 5 questions in each grade level for families to provide feedback to us as a learning community.  These questions were derived from our bi-annual report card.  We asked families to complete a consensogram to help us gather data for our BSIP and for us to continually strive to meet the needs of our families. Asking for feedback is an important aspect of creating a partnership and letting families (our clients) know we value their input and will work together to meet our learning community needs.

What other ways are you getting your parents involved?  I would love for you to comment below so we can learn from you and your efforts in creating effective partnerships.

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