During my first year student teaching, I was inspired by all of the talents and brilliance of my students. These young people were excited about learning and I wanted their supporters to experience this energy as well.
In order to share their energy, I really wanted to engage stakeholders in my lessons and our students’ learning. This group included, parents, grandparents, siblings and community leaders and we were able to successfully engage them through a number of schoolwide events and classroom specific activities.
The most important part of this experience was creating opportunities for parents to be involved that worked with their schedules, or in ways that would make the engagement feasible. During the unit, we had parents join us for lunch groups, lead reading circles, be a recess buddy and more.
3 ways to increase parent involvement
Change your mindset
Parent involvement can be a fun and important part of the school experience. Just as much as teachers should be involved in instruction and learning, so should the parents and/or family members of the students. In order to create more opportunities to welcome and engage parents, we should all work to change our mindset about having parents involved. Educators should see parents as an extension of the classroom and commit to spending time getting them involved. This is an opportunity to positively impact the school environment and enhance student achievement.
Behavior or academic challenges should not be the only time a parent/guardian is asked to come to the school. Family members love good reports and appreciate transparency into how their student is progressing. Parents/guardians are excited to support teachers, especially when they see and understand how this teacher is positively impacting their student. This encourages parents/guardians to truly invest in their student and the school community. As educators, we should work to reframe our thinking on when to involve parents, how they want to participate and be sure we have plans that don’t create barriers for their involvement.
Timing is everything
Traditionally, schools have hosted parent-teacher conferences and events with students after school or sometimes during the school day. This timing can be difficult for parents who have conflicting work schedules or have other obligations. Take the time to learn more about parent/guardian schedules so you can invite parents to come during times that are convenient for them. Additionally, be sure to have a variety of events at different times to accommodate differing schedules.
Leverage technology to have parents join or view events via Skype or send video clips that can be shared with the class. I have seen this work really well when there was a transportation challenge for a parent. Parents would record themselves reading a book and send a video to the teacher. For older students, this was also a way for parents to be present for conferences or meetings without physically having to be at the school.
School leaders who welcome non-traditional scheduling of activities could and should offer incentives for teachers who are willing to be flexible with their schedule. Another strategy is to identify when parents are most present, such as athletic events. Use those times to have a conferences or share pertinent information. Have parents volunteer to help with classroom materials or support tasks that can be completed during the game.
Developing partnerships with families can help to increase their involvement. If parents understand that as the teacher or school leader you want their input and value their contributions, they will likely find new and innovative ways to be involved. For example, if you have a special unit coming up and a parent has a skill or expertise that would be helpful in providing demonstrations or experiences, work with the parent to make the unit realistic. I have done this with a unit on plants where parents who enjoy gardening came in and worked with the students. Similarly during an automotive unit we scheduled a class outing to see the facilities of a parent who was a mechanic. During our unit on different cultures, we had a parent who traveled a lot skype in from another country. Creating memorable and interactive learning units can be possible when you work together.
Ask parents at your school about their talents and expertise then leverage that in classroom activities and school events. Get to know all stakeholders to understand how they see themselves supporting their student’s learning. As students get older, the ways in which parents/guardians are involved will evolve. Parent/guardian involvement can be effective for students of all ages, if the school and community work together.
Kickboard helps support schools who want to increase parent involvement. Read about a Kickboard school that reduced suspensions and detentions through enhanced family engagement.