When thinking of family engagement in a child’s school life, thoughts of Parent-Teacher conferences and phone calls home may spring to mind. Sometimes we have caregivers coming along to trips and other school-hosted events and productions, but are these events engaging parents in their child’s learning? Or are they 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 caregivers interested and involved in their child’s education.
Tip 1: Get to know the caregivers
The key here is to build a relationship with the caregivers. 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.
Read more: Best Practices For Student Conferences
This will help you gain an insight into their busy lives and schedules, and you will learn about their work-life balance, whether they are stay-at-home parents or whether one is often traveling abroad for business. You will also learn who the primary caregivers of your students really are: perhaps they live with their grandparents or are taken care of by an older sibling. Regardless of who is their primary caregiver, you can learn their thoughts on your student's educational and social progress. They can also get to know you, too! As an important adult in this student's life, you spend a great deal of time with their child, and it is important that caregivers 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, so 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 caregiver 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 to this child to ensure they are on the right track. The learning process is different for each child, and so is the method of caregiving, and when you both understand each other, you can work together.
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 the adults in their homes to inform them of their great progress.
Phone calls home have negative connotations, yet a call home doesn’t have to be bad. Caregivers 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 many caregivers, they may have never received a positive phone call about their child. This means that phoning home and spreading positive news about their child can open many doors, build partnerships, and strengthen relationships. It can help with behavior management and engage caregivers in their child’s learning - when they know that their child has succeeded in a difficult subject or has behaved well, their aspirations for them can change.
It can also 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, the student will be happy that their hard work is being recognized, and their caregivers 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 families. Updates about tests, 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.
Caregivers can get in contact with the school to find out about school closures rather than having to go through a long process of contacting the school and trying to get in contact in between lessons. The most efficient way to use social media for this purpose is to employ the help of a school communicator, whose role it is to build bridges between schools and the wider community.
Tip 4: Stay in frequent contact
Engage students' families and caregivers with frequent, easy-to-answer surveys. This will allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of any rising community issues, such as growing discontent with the school's curriculum or poor relationships with teachers. When you stay in frequent contact with your school community, you nurture a relationship and culture in which stakeholders feel valued and respected. However, without a doubt, the most important part of asking for feedback is to work on the feedback you get given. Ignoring survey responses or disregarding any criticisms, complaints, or concerns will devalue the idea of feeding back. Don't forget, even if you are unable to take measures and ensure an issue won't happen again, you should still thank the community member for taking the time to let you know.
Get the infographic: Five simple steps for dealing with negative feedback
The most important factor when engaging and involving caregivers in their child’s education is to first engage them in education in general. Keeping them 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 caregivers 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 what affects the students will affect you as a teacher. Engage parents in education. This will get the ball rolling in engaging students' families and caregivers in their education.
Author: Bethany Spencer
Posted: 05 Dec 2022
Estimated time to read: 4 mins