Monday, July 4, 2011

Ten tips for encouraging parental involvement

It would be hard to overestimate the value of involved parents in education. There are any number of ways in which a classroom teacher can work toward including a diverse parent population in the classroom. Here are ten tips for including parents or guardians in your classroom:
  1. Begin the year right by knowing your parents and students. Check any information the school might have and check with your students’ previous teachers to see if they have any special insight about communicating with parents.
  2.  Survey parents to find out their linguistic and cultural background, expectations for you and for their children, and ability and desire to participate in the classroom. Ideally this would be done in the parents’ native language, in written form.
  3. Hold an open house for parents early in the school year. If the school already does this, take full advantage of it by emailing or phoning parents to invite them personally to stop by and visit your classroom.
  4. Keep channels of communication open for parents. You might consider starting a classroom twitter account, facebook page or blog and inviting parents to follow along with what is happening in class. These sites might even be linked to a translation website that might be helpful for parents.
  5.  For families that are very new America, create a sort of “orientation” to your school. This might be an online document or a special open house in which the expectations of teachers, parents and students for participation in the classroom are made clear. Invite questions.
  6. If a significant number of your students’ families are associated with a community organization, such as a library, community center or social service organization, consider partnering with the organization to encourage parental involvement in education. Perhaps hold a monthly meeting or homework help session.
  7.  Develop rich relationships with parents whenever possible and keep them cultivated. In future years, you might be able to enlist former parents for help in communicating or acculturating new parents to your classroom. Perhaps during an open house, bring in a parent from the previous year and have that parent share “success stories from the classroom” modeling successful involvement.
  8. If your school or district does not do this already, adopt the use of an online grade book so that parents can keep up-to-date with assignments and grades.
  9.    Encourage the participation of room mothers/fathers/grandmothers/grandfathers particularly for units of study for which their background is relevant. If you have a grandfather who fought in the Vietnam War and the topic of study is Southeast Asia, invite the parent to come speak to the class. Or assign students to interview their own parents about a classroom topic and present their findings to the class.
  10. Finally, keep parents’ phone numbers handy. Don’t restrict communication only to negative or disciplinary remarks. Call parents when students do things that are remarkable. Share students’ achievements with one another, their families and their broader community when possible. Celebrate success and establish an expectation for excellence.


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