Forming strong school-family partnerships is an important aspect of giving students the support they need at home and in school. When teachers, administrators, and families work together to evaluate students’ needs, celebrate successes, and work through issues, students are better able to thrive.
Families are more likely to see schools in a positive light when they trust that the network of professionals working with their children care about their children’s academic, social, and emotional development. Consider incorporating the following strategies into your teaching practices and classroom routines to establish trust and promote family involvement:
Engage in dialogue
- Use the first six weeks of the school year to build trust with parents and open the lines of communication. Send out a family interest inventory to ask for parents’ opinions on student strengths and interests (Center for Responsive Schools, 2005).
- Reach out to parents to celebrate students’ achievements such as when they demonstrate leadership in group work, show empathy towards a peer, or exhibit determination to build a skill.
- When discussing a student’s areas of improvement with parents, begin the conversation on a positive note by leading with that student’s strengths. This communicates that you believe in their child’s ability to succeed (Center for Responsive Schools, 2011).
- Conduct parent-teacher conferences to identify parents’ concerns and explore how teachers can support the student’s needs.
- Include, encourage, and respect the voices of parent advisory groups and student councils as an integral part of any decision-making team. These groups bring together parents, students, and administrators and have been shown to be most effective when principals and other school leaders work closely with parents.
- Hold class meetings where teachers and administrators discuss their expectations and main goals for the year while also asking for feedback from parents.
- Schedule open houses, including a time for parents to visit classrooms, so that they can envision what a typical day for their child looks like.
Include the family in instruction
- Respect cultural differences by adopting a culturally responsive approach to teaching. Each family will have its own set of values, beliefs, and traditions. Learn about families’ cultural values so that decisions and goals can be made in a way that takes into consideration each family’s cultural background.
- Tailor your students’ assignments to incorporate familial experiences as objects of study. The following are examples of how to include home life in class lessons:
- Explore oral histories and primary sources by having students interview caregivers.
- Learn about vivid language by describing a favorite object from home.
- Discuss the difference between pie charts and line graphs by having students compare data such as how much each person in their family sleeps, how much water they drink, etc.
- Invite parents to come into the classroom to present an aspect of their life that meshes well with content students are learning. For example, have a parent share a cultural tradition from their country of origin.
By communicating with parents honestly and optimistically, giving them a voice in and out of the classroom, and forging a bridge between home life and the curriculum, you can take the steps needed to create a strong partnership.
As teachers, we all want to see each student live up to their potential. Building a bridge between home and school that is centered on trust and respect will allow us to turn that goal into a reality. When we include parents in the classroom, we are paving the way to provide the best support possible for our students.