By Lani Aquino
There are a couple of extremes when it comes to parent engagement. Some parents are too involved and take over a child’s educational journey while others are completely off the radar. As with any other aspect of education, and life really, it’s all about balance. Students need to have independence that allows them to make decisions and experience struggles, but students also need a support system.
Rather than assuming parents know how to be that support system or dive in and get involved in a healthy fashion, it’s important to communicate and create opportunities to increase levels of positive engagement for parents. With parent engagement making Education Week’s list of 10 Game-Changing Ideas in Education, the role of parents in education and the paving of pathways for involving families should definitely be a priority. With these 5 ways to foster and support engagement, students, teachers, and families can begin reaping the benefits of more positive involvement.
Regular Communication- This can come in the form of a newsletter and/or webpage that offers insights into classroom occurrences and upcoming events. Keeping parents in the loop is imperative. Things to consider with formulaic communications are whether parents are receiving them/have access to them and whether or not parents can translate them if applicable. This is where making use of district services can come into play, and the importance of communicating in the best way to reach all parents as opposed to the most convenient way for the teacher is crucial.
Parent Workshops/Tutorials- There’s lots of buzz about new methodology, especially when it comes to subjects like mathematics. Parents often can’t support students at home because they don’t have an understanding of the new strategies and methods that are being used in learning. A simple solution to that issue is to teach the parents. Whether it’s a Parents as Students Night or some tutorials made available for parent viewing, negative posts on social media due to confusion or mutterings of That’s not how I was taught. can easily be deterred. For teachers who do blended learning videos already, this would be a breeze.
Volunteer Opportunities- Parents can get a much better idea about what goes on at school and support it if they are able to be a part of it. Many parents just don’t know how they can help. Communicating with parents about volunteer work inside the classroom, prep work outside of the classroom, and anything in between can be much easier with volunteer apps like Signup Genius or com. Creating an initial email blast about logistics or sharing details via newsletter, parent meetings, and/or other tech communication channels can offer parents a tangible plan for volunteering. Whether it’s reading with small groups, cutting out materials, building sets, chaperoning, or donating supplies, parents need to know about the opportunities in order to fulfill them.
Parent Events- There are lots of ways to get parents involved with events at school. Parents can’t necessarily make it to events during working hours though, so creating opportunities at a variety of times is helpful. Morning options like Doughnuts with Dad can be a great way to get a male presence into the building before the workday begins. Hosting evening or weekend activities is another way to get families involved. These events can be as simple as a science fair walkthrough and as elaborate as a diversity event where families are asked to share cultural traditions by creating stations with food, artifacts, games, etc. Promoting interest and attendance at PTO meetings is also an excellent way to encourage involvement.
EdNavigator- While currently only available in limited areas, EdNavigator is a program that could be life changing for families across the United States. This partnership is highlighted in How to Solve the Parent-Engagement Problem, as one of the key solutions to bridging the parent gap in Education Week’s Big Ten Series. EdNavigator partners with local businesses to assist parents in creating and maintaining positive relationships as they navigate their children’s school-aged years. For many parents who had less than perfect educational journeys themselves, this support system can be integral to allowing them to pave a journey for their own children that is steeped in success.
The support of a parent can do wonders in bringing positivity to a child’s educational journey. Helping parents find the best avenue for offering that support can be easier when channels of communication are in place and opportunities are easily accessible. When parents are able to see the value in getting involved and know ways in which they can, students reap a lifetime of benefits.
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