When thinking of parental engagement in a child’s school life, thoughts of Parent-Teacher Conference and phone calls home may spring to mind. Sometimes we have parents coming along to trips and other school hosted events and productions, but are these events engaging parents in their child’s learning? Or they are simply to inform and keep them updated on what's new at the school?
It can be difficult to differentiate between the two, but by understanding what’s engaging and informative, we can get parents interested and involved in their child’s education.
Tip 1: Get to know the parents
The key here is to build a relationship with the parents. Meeting with them doesn’t have to be once or twice a year during a busy Parent-Teacher Conference. It can be you, as the teacher, getting to know the people responsible for the children you’re teaching. Invite them each semester for a cup of coffee and catch up.
This will help you gain an insight into their busy lives and schedules, you will learn about their work life balance, whether they are stay at home parents or whether one is often travelling abroad for business. You can learn their thoughts on their child’s educational and social progress. They can also get to know you. As a teacher, you spend a great deal of time with their child, and it is important that parents get to know the person who is responsible for their child for such a large part of their day.
When you learn a little about them, you will know how to cater your teaching to a method that will be best for their child. For example, perhaps you have a parent that likes to sit down with their child in the evening through two hours worth of homework and offer support, when teaching this child in class, you can give them a little autonomy and allow them to grab hold of the reins.
Alternatively, you may have a parent that prefers to let their child get on with their homework independently and you may want to spend a little more time offering some guidance with this child to ensure they are on the right track. The learning process is different for each child, so is the method of parenting, and when you both understand each other, you can work in synergy.
Tip 2: Send a message home
A phone call home only needs to be a couple of minutes, but the impact of this call will have a positive and lasting effect. At the start of the year, let your students know that you will be getting in touch with their parents to inform them of their great progress.
Phone calls home have negative connotations, yet a call home doesn’t have to be bad. Parents love hearing about all the great things their child has done, or how well they have behaved and students love receiving positive feedback about how they’re getting on in school. It motivates them to do better - to instigate more phone calls home.
For several parents, they may have never received a positive phone call about their child, but this can open many doors, build partnerships, and strengthen relationships. It can help with behaviour management and engage parents in their child’s learning - when they know that their son or daughter has succeeded in a difficult subject or has behaved well, their aspirations for them can change.
It can motivate the students to work harder and inspire them to do better. Overall, it can brighten everyone’s day, you’ll be happy with your student, they’ll be happy that their hard work is being recognised, and parents will be happy that their child is working hard and succeeding.
Tip 3: Communicate via social media
With many of our schools now using online systems and software to record lessons, learning and homework tasks, our doors have opened wider than can be imagined when considering means of communication as well as reaching our communities.
Schools now have Twitter and Facebook accounts with groups set up to involve only the students that are in attendance at the school and their parents. Updates about exams, school closures, homework tasks and even a general rundown on the government’s plans for education can be posted for all parties to stay engaged and involved.
Students and teachers who both use social media can easily get in touch, students can ask questions about something they’ve studied and parents can get in contact with the school to find out about inset days and school closures rather than having to go through a longer process of contacting the school and trying to get a hold of you in between lessons, parents can quite easily tweet you or send you a direct message which you can respond to when you have a spare minute. Parents even have their own education related hashtags which they can use and take part in chats, question governing bodies in the education sector and discuss their school’s education practices.
Both you and the parents have one common goal, and that is to help their children succeed
At the start of the year, when sending out a letter to introduce yourself to parents, include your Twitter handle, blog page, Facebook page, as well as the schools and invite parents to follow and interact with you. Inform them that you are willing and happy to spend your time keeping in touch, even if it is only for 15 minutes of the day.
The most important factor when engaging and involving parents in their child’s education is to first engage them in education in general. Keeping parents in the loop of what’s happening and the impact it will have on their children and on your teaching will get them engaged.
It’s important to remember that both you and the parents have one common goal, and that is to help their children succeed. A parent will be interested in understanding and learning about what affects their child, and you of course can relate to this because what affects the students will affect you as a teacher. Engage parents in education, and this will get the ball rolling in engaging the parents in their child’s education.