Megan Bertrand is the Assistant Principal at the Academy of International Education Charter School in Miami, Florida. In addition to family workshops, she has implemented a schoolwide culture system, including Kickboard, at the elementary, middle and high school level.
Family engagement workshops provide a space where adults can collaborate and discuss important topics as they relate to the daily lives of their children. These workshops allow for a team-based approach as school staff and parents work together to implement best practices as we guide students in a positive and meaningful direction.
Note that the examples below were held as in-person workshops, but hosting virtual family workshops similar to these can be just as powerful to help support parents at this time.
Hosting parent workshops gives school leaders an opportunity to spark conversations, provide information and educate parents about a specific, predetermined topic. These topics can range but should be tailored to the current or future experiences that parents will encounter as they support the academic, emotional and social needs of their child at your school. We’ve seen these workshops help increase active participation, communication and collaboration between parents and our school.
Having parents complete an interest survey will provide insight into the topics that parents are interested in learning more about. You can also select a topic that addresses current trends that teachers or school leaders have recognized within the student body. Once you have determined a topic, reach out to community organizations to see if they have content developed and would be able to assist as you host a parent workshop.
Be Strong International is an example of a non-profit organization that my school has worked closely with. Together we host parent workshops to provide adults with pertinent information and best practices regarding different topics.
Ideas for Parent Workshops
Some of the workshops have included:
- Keeping Our Youth Safe on Social Media
- Encouraging Youth About Avoiding Risky Sexual Behaviors
- How to Raise Responsible Teenagers Without Having to Micromanage Them
- The Student Code of Conduct: What All Parents Need to Know
Once a topic has been determined, flyers are distributed, and the monthly topic is posted on our school’s social media platforms. The workshops are always in the evenings and snacks are provided.
The workshop that attracted the most parents at our school was titled, “Keeping Our Youth Safe on Social Media.” Parents were given a general overview of different social media platforms and the types of interactions that occur on each site. Most parents were aware of Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter but many had never heard of Tik Tok, Kik, Tumblr, the Calculator App, House Party and Snapchat.
During this workshop the facilitator discussed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and how the minimum age to create a social media account is 13 years old. However, some applications like WhatsApp require users to be at least 16 years of age. Parents were surprised by this as many of their children have social media accounts and are under the age of 13.
Parents also received information on the different types of parental control services that are available as a way to monitor texts, calls, social media interactions and internet content. Parents expressed appreciation in learning this information and encouraged us to hold additional sessions.
Family Engagement Workshop Tips
As you start to plan a family workshop here are a few tips:
- Ask at least one parent to join your planning team. Encourage them to communicate with other parents as the workshop date approaches.
- Market the workshops for adults only. However, some parents will still bring their child so have some teacher volunteers and a designated space for those children who arrive with their parents.
- Create a one-page handout with the most important information from the workshop and include pertinent contact information.
- Have a parent sign-in sheet to track parent participation. Title I schools can also use this as evidence for family engagement.
- Do a small raffle at the end as a way to thank parents for attending.
- Send a “Thank you” email to those who attended and ask for feedback as you plan the next parent workshop.
Parent workshops help build capacity for parental involvement and provide a space where parents and educators can work together. By tailoring the topics to the needs of the school, these workshops can offer support and provide parents with additional tools and resources while also helping to address topics that affect children in school.