One of the challenges, regardless of your population, is figuring out a way to get all of your families involved at school. We sometimes have the mentality that the parents that we NEED to see are the ones we have a hard time reaching, but as Matt Gomez recently posted, we may need to step back and see what else we can do to make connections. I’ve seen three different ways that campuses have successfully built relationships within all types of families.
Recognizing cultures- Campuses that are able to celebrate the diversity of their building show their students and families that they value their history and past. Dr. Brown, our keynote speaker this year had a through provoking point about schools and their wheelbarrows. If some one looks at your wheelbarrow (all the people that you interact/work/develop ) and they don’t see anything that looks like “them”, they are going to have a hard time connecting with you. What kind of programs do you offer at your school/classroom? Is there diversity present? We had a multicultural night that our music teacher headed up that was incredible! Different families sponsored tables and provided background information about their culture. Some even handed out different food samples that represented their heritage. There were egg rolls, jerky, ravioli, and even apple pie! This free night really showed our families that we cared about the history and perspective they brought to our campus.
Meeting them where they are- Many of our parents have more than one child, and some are working more than one job. One of the great things about technology is that it can allow for no traditional communication to take place. Tools like twitter and remind101 allow teachers to send information through text messages for parents. These timely reminders can help keep parents informed and involved, regardless of whether or not they’ve had time to go through the weekly stack of papers that have come home. I chose to have different students record videos with our weekly goals and upcoming plans. I was strategic in who I chose to film some weeks, knowing that even there wasn’t a computer at home, if certain voices were present, parents would find a way to watch.
Open door policy- Having a friendly, accommodating office staff is crucial. These faces are the flagship of your campus. The way parents, grand parents, and visitors are greeted will set the tone for their expectations while there. Smiles, helpful tones, and a “anything for you” attitude reassures them that we care about their most precious asset that they are leaving with us each day. As a mother, I would not feel comfortable leaving my girls at a place where I felt rebuffed, ignored, or chastised. I want to feel welcome and know that is how my girls would feel too. From start to finish, while they are in that front office, we should do our best to represent what our school stands for. It was a vey big deal for me for our front office to look like we worked in an elementary school…not a doctor’s office. Cold, clinical, sterile? No thank you! We added bright colors, encouraging messages, and most importantly, student work! The brag wall solicited many a compliment from our visitors. It also included frames that stated what each grade level would be learning about throughout the year. Parents walked out knowing that we were all about our students & learning.
November is parent engagement month. What are you doing to bring in your families?