Getting parents involved in their child’s education provides many benefits, from improving academic achievement to better classroom behaviour. Unfortunately, far too many schools find engaging parents to be a challenge. The good news is, there are a number of ways to draw them into the classroom.
Break through barriers
If you want parents to get involved with your school, classroom or program, you need to determine why they aren’t getting involved in the first place. Common barriers include access to transportation, lack of childcare, family stressors and nonflexible work schedules.
At the start of the year, poll families online or through the mail to determine what challenges they face. Show that you appreciate their feedback by giving a removable bumper sticker or keychain to everyone who participates. Use their feedback to develop programs to help them overcome boundaries or to provide access to needed information. Consider offering opportunities for involvement that happen outside school hours or see if your school district can provide childcare services. Look into what local transportation options exist and provide contact information for those services.
While keeping parents informed is critical, it’s all too easy to create information overload. Be sure to avoid:
- Offering too many communication channels: If your daily updates come through email, social media, physical newsletters and text messages, parents may start ignoring what they see as repetitive information. Pick one platform and let parents know it’s the place to go for announcements and updates.
- Providing too much information: Instead of distributing a newsletter with a dozen announcements every week, offer daily communication of one or two messages so parents can stay up to date without feeling overwhelmed
- Forgetting a call to action: While good news is always fun, letting parents know what you need is essential. Providing a clear call to action can get parents to sign up and show up, whether you need a field trip chaperone or a reading helper.
Match parent abilities and interests to needs
Every parent has different skills, availability and financial resources. The good news is all of them can be a big help. Look at what parents have to offer and then tailor your needs when possible. For example:
- Have a parent who’s a CPA or accountant come in as a special speaker on money or as a math tutor.
- For the parent who wants to help, but has limited time, provide a list of needed classroom items, such as pencils, paper towels and educational toys or games and see if they’d be willing to provide some items.
- Parents who are super organized are ideal candidates to ask for help when planning a field trip, fundraiser or all-school event.
Host a family event
Sometimes, the simplest way to get parents involved is to create an opportunity for family fun. Host a cultural night or talent show to let students (and their parents) shine. Or go low-key and host a movie night. And if it’s easier for parents to do things before school starts, consider hosting a breakfast event!
Each of these opportunities gives parents a chance to volunteer, share their expertise or simply show up and have fun.
Offer parental resources
Just like students and teachers, parents often need assistance, but don’t know where to get it. Host a monthly gathering that covers topics both school and non-school related, including:
- Subject refreshers in math, grammar or other topics
- How to help seminars that focus on ways parents can help their child build cognitive, emotional and motivational skills
- Parent support groups
To find out what parents need most, try holding an open forum during an open house or parent-teacher conferences. Invite parents to drop in and offer ideas about presentations that would be most valuable to them. Encourage participation by offering a thank-you giveaway to everyone who offers an idea. Calendar magnets, wristbands or buttons are great choices.
Parent involvement equates to academic opportunity for students
In the end, it’s a solid equation: Getting parents involved equals a better academic experience for students. And with these tips, you’ll be able to pull parents in with ease.