Writing celebrations. Classroom volunteers. Coat drive. Box tops. Homework help. So much comes along with being a parent who is engaged in their child’s education and school community! It can feel daunting for some parents and they may not know where to start. Instead of jumping into everything, they may stay on the sidelines, or at least appear that way to you as the school staff. Naturally, most parents do have a desire to be engaged in and take ownership of their child’s education. Some of them may just not know where to start! The school staff can have a huge part in changing that!
Some parents may seem disengaged when they are simply just intimidated. The world of education can be a difficult one to navigate, especially for parents who haven’t been through it before or who are trying to navigate it as parents of a child with special needs for the first time. Think about all of the acronyms and inaccessible jargon that is known to accompany educational settings. Teachers go to school to learn these terms and then continue doing so through PD, while there is no guidebook or road map to show parents the way. Some of them are simply so intimidated that they don’t know how to approach it. Help them take the first step by hosting a “101” informational meeting or reaching out to them individually to let them know you are there! Also, creating a welcoming and approachable environment for both them and their children from the beginning of the year can make a huge difference.
Parents may want to help in the classroom but don’t know how to due to their busy schedules! Make it easy for them to help outside of the traditional school day. When you are first soliciting volunteers at the beginning of the school year, offer to send home laminating that needs to be cut, bulletin board letters that need to be cut out, and other materials that parents can help prep at home. You may be surprised how much they are willing and ready to help when you just make it convenient for them!
Help parents help their children! As you all share the goal of your students succeeding, it helps everyone win. Post news on SchoolCNXT of anchor charts and displays you and your class have created, videos you’ve shared with them, information on new strategies or units, and even behavioral standards. This will help parents understand the way you are doing things in the classroom so that they can continue those systems at home. Consistency is key!
Connect parents with one another. Parents who are engaged with other parents are more likely to be involved in their overall school community. Also, they may feel more comfortable getting help from another parent. Through SchoolCNXT, parents can message any other member of the school community, whether that be staff or other parents. Parents have reached out to the parents of their children’s classmates for information about assignments, forms, uniforms, and more. What a great way to help them build their own support and information network!
Make sure parents know they are always welcome in your classroom, as long as that is in line with your school’s visitor policy. Being able to see their child “in action” in the classroom and see how you teach a skill can be invaluable! This will also help the children see that you and the parents are on the same page and are working together. And if they can’t come in during the school day, that’s OK. As long as they know you’re accessible, it’s a step in the right direction. Make sure they know they can always send you a SchoolCNXT message if they have a question, concern, or want to fill you in on what’s going on at home.
There are a lot of ways in which educators wish their parents would engage and assist their children and the school community. What is less often acknowledged is how educators can help make that dream a reality! Help yourself – and ultimately, your students – by helping parents take the first step to being involved.
Emily Williams, SchoolCNXT Editorial Team and former teacher