Let’s face it; some parents have more time than others to spend with their children. The reality is most households these days have two working parents or one parent who is faced to work long hours in order to make ends meet. Regardless of the situation, teachers and parents need to work together to ensure parents involvement in their children’s education.
Even if it’s brief, studies show that there are significant advantages when children have the support of a family member when it comes to school. The teacher’s job will be increasingly more difficult when students do not have that extra support, not to mention parents that are involved can be a tremendous asset in the classroom as well, taking care of tedious tasks that are necessary but time consuming.
The main reason teachers should encourage disinterested parents to become involved is the benefits that it awards the child. Children who have attentive and supportive parents have fewer absences, are better behaved, have more academic success and tend to go further in school than those who do not have the same parental guidance. There are strategies that teachers can use to help disinterested parents be more engaged.
Build a Bridge
- The first communication with parents should be a positive experience. Teachers should talk to parents in a comfortable and relaxed manner to eliminate anxiety or negativity that the parent might be feeling. It’s important to avoid educational type “jargon” that might make parents feel uncomfortable and out of place.
- Teachers should ensure that parents have clear and concise directions to the school and classroom. They should feel welcome and wanted in their child’s educational environment from the start.
- It’s important to accommodate language and cultural differences when sending out welcome letters or classroom information. Teachers should find out from the office which families need such accommodations.
- Another thing that teachers can do to set up a positive relationship with parents is know the family dynamics. The student’s information is available to teachers, and knowing who a child lives with, whether the parents are married or divorced, or any other extenuating circumstances will help set up an initial bond between parent and teacher.
Put out the Welcome Mat
- Teachers should create an environment that is family friendly and accommodates parents’ schedules whenever possible. Many parents have other kids, and that is why they are not able to attend school functions regularly.
- Parents should be provided with a list of mastery skills for each subject. Many times, they aren’t aware of benchmarks or goals that should be met, so they become disinterested in the child’s progress.
- Parents and other family members should be invited to share information or concerns about their student. They are the teacher’s best resource when it comes to the child.
- Teachers should invite parents to be volunteers or classroom helpers. Many parents have time in their weekly schedules to come to the classroom, but if a teacher doesn’t make that option known to them, they will not feel welcome.
Maintain a Good Relationship
- It’s important for teachers to keep communication with parents alive, even after the excitement of the first few weeks of school wears down. This can be done by sending “update letters” home once a month, letting parents know about classroom accomplishments and goals.
- A teacher’s time is limited, and it’s difficult to acknowledge every positive thing that a student does, but reaching out to a parent to give an accolade or a kind word about their child is a great way to maintain a positive relationship.
- Another way to involve parents in the classroom environment is to organize “fun nights” at school where students can bring their parents or a family member. Some examples are family literature nights, Bingo nights, art gallery walks, etc.
- Parent-teacher conferences can be stressful for all parties involved. Teachers are tired and work long hours during that time, while parents have to arrange for time off of work, and often times they are faced with concerns that they don’t know how to address. The more accommodating teachers can be to the parents’ schedules, the more pleasant the conferences will be. Another way teachers can help this process is to have a warm and welcoming environment in the classroom with soft music playing, refreshments, or samples of student artwork hanging around the room.
Parents who are involved in their children’s education are a valuable asset to our community and our schools. Teachers have an extremely hard, yet important job, and it’s extremely difficult to do it effectively without support from home. Parents who volunteer and show interest in the daily classroom activities can be a huge help to busy teachers. More importantly, students whose parents are actively involved are present more often, more likely to follow rules and behave appropriately, and are shown to be more academically driven through their educational years. Teachers must make it a priority to involve parents and keep them involved, for it is the most effective situation for everyone involved.