How To Improve Parental Involvement In The Classroom
by TeachThought Staff
If it’s not obvious enough by watching and seeing and experiencing in your own classroom, there are studies describing the importance and significance of getting parents on board in a child’s learning (here’s one).
Besides which, it’s just plain and simple common sense that tells us the same. But despite these strong assertions, as a busy teacher, it’s easy to let these relationships slide and forget how important communication with parents can be. When such moments happen, its necessary to take a step back and refocus on how much there is to be gained by them.
Above is a reasonably crude summation of parent-teacher interactions, and the consequences therein. In each of the scenarios, the further from the center they find themselves, the more pronounced the students feel the effect. Let’s assume that Lonely Linda is a very isolated and rare case (you wouldn’t be reading this if that was your teaching style), and many teachers could relate to the Resilient Ryan scenario, having tried in vain to contact and get a parent’s support regarding a student, and then desisting in further attempts.
We can all also relate to Hopeful Harry’s plight, with mainly time constraints preventing many teachers from engaging in more consistent communication with the receptive home. But we obviously all aspire to create a similar context to that enjoyed by Successful Sarah.
So how can we move it all into Sarah’s quadrant, considering the teacher’s greatest enemy–time? Try these ideas to make Sarah’s situation the norm.
7 Ways To Improve Parental Involvement In The Classroom
To increase communication and gain from the relationship we can…
1. Understand what communication involves
Parent involvement doesn’t mean constant talking to parents on the phone or via email. It also doesn’t mean only speaking when things go wrong. It means letting parents in on what is happening in the classroom with much greater frequency. This can happen in numerous ways, which may and will include emails and occasional phone calls, but may take the form of having a really good homework app, or apps that communicate day to day behavior or assessment for learning results. Exporting a student’s contribution to questions contributed to GoFormative for example, and emailing to individual parents opens a conversation at home, a conversation that reinforces what you’ve done in class.
2. Beg for more time
For any school and teacher, time is the number one enemy. There simply isn’t enough in the day to achieve all that is necessary, especially if teachers are expected to simply ‘bolt on’ parent communication to their existing workload. But if a better relationship with a parent will ultimately benefit your teaching and your students’ results, beg for the time to be able to make it happen. Speak firmly and with confidence at faculty and staff meetings, asking for at least an extra hour a week to participate in parent communication. It may not happen in this year, now that timetables are secured, but things must begin somewhere, and next year will be here before we know it.
3. Run a trial
Unfortunately, schools are at the mercy of miserly funding, and are squeezed and continually wrung out to get every drop from the time they have. In such a context, it is indeed unlikely that a school will decide to give every teacher less chalk face time. But if you ask to set up a trial of such a strategy, with all your positive and instructive findings being documented and presented after a set time, including enormously persuasive parent testimonials, the school will be more likely to reconsider their existing policy. The school may then need to creatively manipulate their current system to accommodate change, but schools are creative places, and will rise to the challenge, especially when increased student performance is the reward.
4. Communicate well
Many schools and parents assume that being able to successfully interact with parents is a given. However, there are a multitude of factors that can affect the ability to communicate with parents, and many of them can seemingly render communication impossible. But for every scenario you may have encountered with an unresponsive parent, someone out there would have found a way passed it. Lucky for us, teachers like to share, so just ask, or do some research in your network.
5. Invest in professional development
Always with the understanding in the back of your mind of how useful it can be to have parents supporting your classroom, organize some professional development on the topic. Your school will be happy for you to go to a conference on this subject, assuming you will return and promote your knowledge to others. If this isn’t possible, then suggest to your line manager or principal a session based on it in your next professional development day; and even better, present the session yourself – that way you’ll learn a lot more about it, and become much better at it.
6. Design work that connects classrooms to communities
If you design learning experiences that naturally connects the classroom to the communities students live in, the relationship between schools and parents will be more authentic, rather than a one way transaction based entirely on notions of academic success.
7. Keep it positive!
Don’t let bad experiences destroy the potential of more frequent communicating. We have all come across overly active parents who seem to over step the boundaries of our personal time. This is why it is very important to learn how to set clear boundaries with parents. Establishing time limits before a meeting begins, and providing generic information about a class via a blog or class webpage can decrease parents’ expectations of your time.
Everyone agrees that getting parents more involved in student learning is important, and in fact a key factor in their success. Making it actually happen however is a different story, and most teachers feel frustrated that a lack of time prevents them from engaging in the practice more, especially in the promotion of positive student efforts. The key to achieving it more consistently however is not such an impossible dream, and may in fact only require just a slight change of focus and direction for it to become reality.
7 Ways To Improve Parental Involvement In The Classroom