Schools are engaging parents with these clever tactics

Monday, November 2, 2015

When a parent is involved in their child's education – helping them with homework, reading to them at night, or attending school functions – the child is statistically more likely to enjoy better results. Rocket science? Hardly.

But how do you, the teacher, engage with parents? Learn from these schools who are connecting brilliantly with parents to improve their children's education.

Isolation damages everybody

More than 20% of American teachers face problems, and even dread, meeting with parents. The percentage is even higher for principals. Cultural differences, budget troubles, discomfort when dealing with schools, and language barriers all play a part in this.

And the problem isn't just between parents and teachers either – it hits parent to parent relationships pretty hard too. How do US schools overcome these communication obstacles?

1) They build a community

Teachers and parents all have the same goal – giving their kids the best. Encouraging parental involvement is all about playing on a sense of community – a community with a shared goal – so everyone gets to add their piece to the complex education puzzle.

But how do you actually go about it? US schools are developing settings where parents can get to know each other as well as the teachers. Meet-ups that double as a social event or an excuse to improve the school, like carnival fundraisers or bake sales, are a great example.

In this casual setting, adults can work together, have fun together, and create lasting relationships. Say one parent is struggling with their child's homework or a squabble between classmates. They now have the confidence and familiarity to ask you or another parent for help.

2) They encourage and aid communication

Many US schools have discovered that communicating with parents means more than just a few meetings and a signed report card. Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, Virginia, set up a simple interactive voicemail and saw a huge improvement in student performance and parental involvement.

With smartphones at our fingertips all day, you have more opportunity than ever to connect and communicate with parents – with customized apps, social media channels, or regular old texting and email.

Instead of struggling to arrange a meeting, you can message parents immediately about student behaviour and performance. Parents feel in the loop, you have greater confidence reaching out – and faster action means no more unhelpful delays.

3) They show some understanding

Many of the obstacles to good communication can be overcome with a degree of empathy. Remember, you all share the same objective – giving students the best education possible – and that means no barrier is too great to overcome.  

Perhaps a parent's income means they can't pay for their child's involvement in sports or other school programs. All parties understand this financial struggle, so they create a fund, which other parents and even teachers can contribute to.

Now students without funds can participate in the programs, creating a better school and learning experience for the kids – without the need for guilt or frustration.

4) They're flexible

Understanding problems is the first step – being creative about the solution is the next. Sometimes flexibility and a willingness to comprise is needed from both teachers and parents.

If the school simply doesn't have the budget or staff to give each student the attention they need, parents can volunteer, create study groups, or sacrifice a few hours at home to pick up the slack.

Obstacles do exist, but a willingness to assess, understand, and fix the problem is what will help students – and that's always the ultimate goal.

5) They take away the stress

We were all students once. And while school may have been a blast for you, it wasn't for many. An uncomfortable school experience can follow people into adulthood, where they become parents who are uncomfortable talking to teachers, contacting the school, or getting involved in their child's education.

Make parents feel comfortable and welcomed in the environment, rather than stressed out. Switching parent-teacher meetings from the school to a community centre or clubhouse, where all parents can feel at ease, is a great example.

Work hard to connect people

It may not take a village to raise a child, but it certainly does to educate one. Boosting parental involvement and building healthier relationships between you and parents gives students a stronger learning experience, a better environment, and huge improvements in performance.

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