Parental engagement is vital. You’d have a tough time finding a teacher who wasn’t aware of the benefits of parents getting involved in their children’s education.
Unfortunately, it’s really not that easy. Parents often don’t show any desire to take a more active role. There are a number of reasons behind this, from a lack of confidence, to a negative perception of schools formed in their school days, and sometimes just not knowing how or why they should get more involved.
Many of the barriers will take a long-term strategy to get past, but here are ten ideas you can implement today that could improve your home-school communication and, ultimately, increase parental engagement.
Home Communication: Enhancing School-Parent Engagement
In today’s fast-paced world, where children’s lives are divided between school and home, ensuring seamless home communication between educators and parents is more vital than ever. Bridging the gap between these two critical spheres of a child’s life can reap significant benefits, not just academically, but also in fostering holistic development. This guide delves deeper into ten pragmatic strategies that schools can employ to enhance their home communication and engagement with parents, ensuring a harmonious partnership that centers around the student’s well-being and growth.
1 – Be Available
Schools must be run like schools, not like doctor’s surgeries.
There is very little that is enjoyable about a trip to the doctor’s, and the process of having to ring up, book an appointment, and wait for a time that is good for them (almost entirely regardless of how suitable it is for you) does not make those occasions any better.
You need to be available for parents. If Mr Johnston rings up the office asking to see you, don’t put him off until next week; see him as soon as you possibly can – sooner, even. Otherwise, he might think twice before expressing his concerns or posing his questions next time. The more open and available you are, the more likely parents are to come to you when they need you.
You want them to feel comfortable in the school environment, so make it a personal challenge for the rest of the year to make yourself completely available for parents, even if it means delaying a meeting for ten minutes.
2 – Remove Barriers
Don’t wait for parents to come to your classroom or office to see you; be as accessible as you can be. Just the thought of having to wait outside the head teacher’s office for a quick chat is daunting enough to put some parents off coming to see you.
Rather than expecting parents to come to you, go to them. I’m not suggesting that you start doing random home visits on the off-chance that Alfie’s mum might have something she wants to ask you. Just make yourself accessible. Stand by the gate for ten minutes at the end of the day. Welcome students (and parents) by the entrance to school in the morning.
Putting yourself out there and letting parents become familiar with who you are and what you do will make you far more approachable. The number of potential communication methods available to use is growing daily, and some of them are fantastic, but nothing quite beats human engagement.
3 – Stop Sending Letters Home
Not everything has to be communicated by letter. Whilst I appreciate that it is an easy and relatively cost-effective method of getting your message out to parents, it isn’t the only option.
The main issue with letters is that they do very little for parental engagement. They are very much a one-way communication tool. Sure, a parent could fire up a laptop, type out a reply, print it and post it to your school office, but it is unlikely. And, yes, they could read a letter and try picking up the phone to speak to someone about it – but again, you’re creating an extra step they need to undertake before they can get a hold of you.
If you want to engage parents, you need to make sure that the majority of your communications are easy to respond to; otherwise, your communication will only be one way, which alienates parents. Emails are a perfect example of this; they are quick, cost-effective, and allow parents to reply easily. But there are other communication channels that do an equally good job – maybe even better.
4 – Drop Them A Text
Let’s face it: texting is a pivotal home communication method of our time. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s instant, making it a preferred method for many. It also facilitates prompt replies from parents, giving it an advantage over traditional letters in the realm of home communication.
However, there’s a nuanced side to this home communication method. To some, texting might come off as a bit intrusive. While numerous people comfortably share their mobile numbers and use them in online contexts, many are more reserved when it comes to such personal details. They might be open to their child’s school sending texts for updates but could be wary about blurring the lines between formal school updates and personal interactions.
The core consideration here is flexibility. If texting as a home communication tool works for your school’s parents, then it’s a green signal. If not, it’s essential to discover other avenues. Effective parental engagement isn’t about imposing a home communication method, but about understanding their comfort levels and adjusting strategies to meet those needs.
5 – Go Social
Have you added social media to your communication mix yet? Rather than posting one-way announcements on your social media pages and leaving it at that, open up a dialogue. It’s a fantastic opportunity for honest, open-ended communication with your students’ parents.
I saw a school’s social media account recently which replied to a parent asking about the P.E. uniform policy by telling her that she needs to contact the school office for queries of that nature. Again, you need to ask parents how they like to communicate, rather than telling them to communicate how you want them to.
If a parent reaches out to you in any way, even through Twitter, reply to them. It may not be your communication method of choice, but at least they are coming to you. Social media needs to be social; it’s in the name!
6 – Run Workshops
Promoting stronger home communication, it might initially seem challenging to suggest to parents that they could participate in after-school classes. However, this approach has proven effective. Imagine running a workshop on I.T. skills, or an after-school class teaching French to both parents and their children. Such initiatives not only enhance home communication by getting parents more involved but can also provide additional learning opportunities for students.
To nurture this bridge of home communication, parents should be invited into the school more regularly than just the typical once-a-term parents’ evening. It’s essential for them to feel that the school is a supportive environment for them, both in terms of pastoral care and academic involvement. For instance, a science teacher I recently spoke with invites parents once a month to engage in the same experiments their children are conducting. It’s a fun, educational experience that allows parents a firsthand look into the day-to-day lessons of your school.
7- Be Positive
All too often, parents associate a letter or phone call home with something negative. Why else would you bother to contact them? The reality is that if you want to increase parental engagement at your school, the last thing you want to do is to only relay negative messages to parents; just imagine how that could make them perceive the school.
You need to be positive. Don’t solely message home to report on misbehaviour or unexplained absences. Make sure you make an effort to let parents know about the good things, too: the excellent work, or the incredible effort their child has been putting in. Parents love it when they hear that their child is doing well.
8 – Let them know why!
It would be very difficult to find a teacher who hasn’t been told about the benefits of increased parental engagement in schools, especially in terms of strengthening home communication. Are the parents at your school as informed about the importance of this home communication? Be honest and upfront. Tell parents why it is so crucial that they actively engage in their child’s learning through enhanced home communication. Share with your students about the benefits as well. If both parents and students comprehend the reasons behind your consistent efforts to establish robust home communication, they are more likely to participate willingly and invest themselves more deeply in the educational process.
9 – Host Regular Open Houses
Beyond the traditional annual or semi-annual open houses, consider hosting more frequent open houses or “classroom showcase” events to enhance home communication. These events can be themed around particular subjects or projects. For instance, if students in a grade have been working on a science project or an art installation, schedule an evening dedicated to home communication where parents can come, observe, and even participate in related activities.
This regularity in open houses not only gives parents a clearer, hands-on picture of what their children are learning but also bolsters home communication by creating more opportunities for informal, face-to-face discussions between teachers and parents. This direct engagement can foster a more personal connection, making parents feel more valued and more likely to reach out with concerns or feedback in the future. It’s a proactive approach that showcases the school’s commitment to effective home communication and its willingness to involve parents in the daily educational life of their children.
10 – Use Your Student Planners
Does your school use student planners? They’re not just tools for recording homework; or, at least, they shouldn’t be. Fully customised student planners are the ideal tool for regular, open-ended home-school communication.
Add a comment box for parental comments into the weekly section design, or even feature pages devoted to home-school communication. It’s simple, but it works. A well-designed student planner or pupil planner for primary schools can really help your school’s home-school communication.
How Custom School Planners Support Home Communication
Custom school planners can be invaluable tools in bolstering home communication. Here are several benefits of using custom school planners to aid in home communication:
- Tailored Content: Custom school planners can be designed to include information specific to a particular school or class, ensuring that the content is relevant to the students and their parents.
- Consistent Communication: By using the planner daily, students and parents have a consistent platform where they can review assignments, events, and other school-related matters, which fosters ongoing dialogue.
- Parent-Teacher Feedback Loop: Custom planners can have sections dedicated to parent-teacher comments. This allows for a regular exchange of feedback, concerns, or acknowledgments.
- Transparency in Academic Progress: Parents can easily track their child’s assignments, test dates, grades, and other academic information, facilitating a clearer understanding of their child’s progress.
- Promotes Responsibility: When students regularly update their planners, they take responsibility for their learning. This habit, visible to parents, fosters discussions about time management and prioritization at home.
- Inclusive of School Policies and Procedures: Custom planners can include school policies, procedures, and values. This ensures parents are always informed and can refer to the planner when needed.
- Important Dates and Events: Planners can list school events, meetings, and other significant dates, making sure families are well-informed and can participate in school activities.
- Holistic Development: Beyond just academic tasks, custom planners can have sections for goal-setting, reflections, or even tracking extracurricular activities. Parents can engage in conversations about these aspects, contributing to their child’s holistic development.
- Ease of Access: A tangible planner is often easier for many parents to check and engage with than digital tools, especially for those who might not be tech-savvy.
- Resource Integration: Custom planners can include resources like conversion tables, grammar tips, or even local community resources. This ensures that parents and students have useful tools at their fingertips, further enriching the home learning environment.
- Bridging Home and School: Having a tangible artifact that travels between school and home daily acts as a bridge, emphasizing the partnership between educators and families in the child’s learning journey.
In essence, custom school planners can play a pivotal role in enhancing home communication, offering a structured, tangible, and consistent platform for interaction and engagement between students, parents, and educators.
effective home communication stands as a linchpin in establishing a strong bond between schools and parents. As the dynamics of the modern world continually evolve, the traditional boundaries between school and home blur. Schools that prioritize and innovate their approaches to home communication are better positioned to offer students a cohesive educational experience, leveraging the combined efforts of educators and parents. As we’ve explored in this guide, there are numerous strategies available to enhance this essential communication. By integrating them, schools can ensure that every child benefits from a harmonious, well-connected environment that spans both their home and school lives.