Parent engagement is a natural component of the elementary experience, after all, with class parties, whole school events, and weekly newsletter, parents have an easy time becoming involved in their child’s education. Not only is parent involvement invited, it is expected and so schools and individual teachers create plenty of opportunities for parents to be involved.
Yet, with the gradual release of responsibility as students age, parent involvement becomes less and less of a focus. We expect them to still be involved but not nearly as present. Not nearly as informed. After all, their children should be growing into responsible teens, which I agree with, however, not all children are ready to be left to their own devices. So rather than an expectation of parent involvement in the upper grades, how about an invitation instead? Here are a few ideas to do just that.
The beginning of year parent survey. Parents know their children best so we need to tap into that goldmine at every age. It doesn’t have to be long, mine this year is 5 questions, but at least it gives parents a chance to communicate with us as we start the year.
The weekly newsletter. This bastion of elementary classrooms does have a place in our older classes, but keep it short and to the point. My team does a bullet point version of things parents can ask their child about and also an update on upcoming deadlines and projects. If parents would like more information, they can access our website.
A beyond-the-homework website. We have a website that yes lists homework, but it also gives team information, school announcements, helpful tips, as well as has a Google calendar where everything we are aware of for school is listed. Parents can subscribe to it and get the news delivered via email.
Morning/Evening events. This year I will be inviting parents along with their children in for literacy mornings or evenings where we will discuss books, view book trailers and such. Perhaps none will show up but I want to create the opportunity either way.
The positive notes or phone calls. It is hard to reach out to 120+ parents so split it up as a team if possible. Keep a master list of who has had positive news about their child shared with them via email, phone call, or post card.
Go beyond the twice a year conference. Every few months I invite parents to set up meetings with me to discuss the progress and goals of their child. Not many take me up on it, however, they have the opportunity to come in if they would like. And yes, that is me spending my time outside of hours to meet with parents but it is completely worth it in the end.
Weekly emails. I send home a weekly email or so to parents discussing all things English, I keep it short and sweet and I post it on our blog too. Parents can choose to delete it if they would like, I would rather have parents feel over-informed than under-informed.
Learn their names. This is a not an event but a process. I have a hard time keeping track of all of the names but I think it speaks volumes to know who it is I am speaking to. When I don’t know I simply ask, I would rather admit it then pretend to know.
Keep learning transparent. I try to post pictures and video from our classroom as much as possible so that parents can see what we are doing. This year I plan on doing more of this as I feel more secure as a 7th grade teacher. Again, they don’t have to view it, but at least it is there.
Open door policy. I know that most parents are too busy to stop by but the point is; they can if they want to. While I cannot stop teaching and speak to them, they can at least get a glimpse of what we are doing and how engaged their child is.
Staying connected and nice. I know that we teach many students, I am up to 120 some I think, yet, for a parent you are only teaching their child. So stay humble, stay nice, stay inviting, and if you mess up; admit it. Having a teacher that truly cares about their child is on the wish list of every parent, even as they age.
What other ideas do you have?
If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. The 2nd edition and actual book-book (not just e-book!) comes out September 22nd from Routledge.