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Top 10 Tips for Teachers - On Family Engagement

Posted by: Commissioner Deborah A. Gist on 10/2/2013
One of the issues teachers often discuss with me when I visit schools across the state is the importance of family involvement. As educators, we all know that we can do our work best when we have the support of parents and other family members. We all hope to have a strong network of parents who care about their children’s success and who are deeply interested in what’s going on in the classroom every day.

While many families reach out immediately and often to be a part of their child’s education, typically family support and engagement for all don't just happen – we have to foster it. To build a culture of family support, here are 10 actions teachers and other educators can take starting today:

  1. Welcome children and parents. School should be a joyful place to be. We want our children and parents to feel welcome and comfortable in our schools. 
  2. Trust and believe in parents. We must start with the genuine belief that parents want what is best for their children and that their children can succeed. 
  3. Be persistent. Every family will not immediately respond in exactly the ways you would like. Stick with it, and show them that you are dedicated to their child. Remember that some parents have had negative experiences with schools, either as students themselves or as parents. It may take some time to develop trust. Others may have life and job stresses that pull them away. Your persistence will make a difference. 
  4. Reach out. The right person to involve may not be a parent in the traditional sense. Don’t forget about grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings, and mentors. 
  5. Be open and available. Make sure that parents know how to ask questions and how to reach you to share any concerns they may have about their children.
  6. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. It is important to over-communicate. You can’t just say it once! It would be really helpful to parents to find the best ways to communicate with them. Notes in the backpack? Text? E-mail? Sometimes phone calls are best. However communication happens, it must be two-way. We need to share and listen.
  7. Share good news and good ideas. Remember to reach out often when there is good news to share! 
  8. Pay a visit. Visiting the family at home can make a real difference too. Keep in mind that literacy and language can play a role and plan accordingly so that parents can communicate with you. 
  9. Think ahead. You can even start family outreach early, before children are in school, by reaching out to young families in the neighborhood to invite them as well.
  10. Have fun! Demonstrate that learning is fun through events at the school such as family math night or picnics. 

On my visits across the state, I have seen examples of these actions and many others. Have you tried any strategies that work well for you? Please feel free to share through the comment function below. Thanks!

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