When you are engaged in your children’s education, your children are more likely to attend school and to perform better. Parent engagement is simply the attitudes, values and behaviors that positively influence your children’s education outcomes. While it’s important to stay informed and to be involved in school activities where possible, your engagement is mostly about what you can do at home.
It is very difficult to get a complete answer when you ask your child “How was school today?”. The most common answers are simply “fine” or “good”. This type of answer does not give you much information about your child’s day at school or insight into the education your child is receiving or experiencing. Here are a few questions and ways to get a better insight into how your child thinks and feels about school.
- Tell me the best thing (worst thing) that happened to you today in school?
- Did something happen in school today that made you laugh?
- Is there any individual person in your class that you would like (would not like to) to sit next to in class?
- What was the most interesting thing you learnt today in school?
- What new word did you learn today in class?
- Did you help or assist one of your class mates today?
- Did one of your class mates help you today in school?
- What was the most interesting class you had today?
- If you had the choice, what do you think you should learn more (or less) in school?
- Who did you play with during recess and what did you do?
- If you could be the teacher for one day, what would do and teach your class?
- Are there any naughty children in class that deserve a timeout?
- Is there anyone in your class that you would like to (would not like) arrange a play date with, and why?
- Did someone do something in school today that made you laugh?
- Who is the coolest teacher in the school?
- If you could switch seats with anyone in your class, who would it be? And why?
- Tell me the weirdest word you heard today or that someone said today?
- What is you most favorite place in school?
- Were you at any time bored in school today?
- Tell me something good or positive that happened to you today in school?
- Was there anyone in school that was horrible to you today?
- Is there anyone in school that you could be nicer to in school?
- If your teacher was standing here, what he/she tell me about you?
In order to get a full sentence out of your children, it is best to ask a non-threatening questions that would invoke a deeper answer and allow you to uncover potential issues you did not know about. Through different questions you will be able to discover if there are, for example, bullies at school or if your child is being threatened or harassed at school. As time goes by, every parent needs to stay engaged and involved your child’s education in order to discover any problems and be able to deal with them immediately before they develop into major problems and hinder your child’s education.
Conversations are critical to ensuring your child feels safe at school. You can have a positive influence on your child’s social, emotional and academic development by talking with them and being engaged in their education. Parents can play an active role in encouraging and fostering positive behaviors that lead to respectful relationships free from bullying and harassment.
Strong administrative leadership is vital to the development of an effective parent involvement programme.
- One of the most significant challenges to conducting an effective parent involvement programme is the lack of instruction on parent involvement that educators and administrators receive in their professional training.
- The principal or programme director plays a critical role in making parent and family involvement a reality. The climate of the school is created, to a large extent, by the tone set in the office of administration. If principals collaborate with parents, educators will be more likely to follow suit.
- Often there is a misperception that partnering with parents, particularly in the decision-making process, will diminish the principal’s authority. Yet, the top management models in America are open and collaborative, encouraging subordinates to share their concerns and engaging workers in cooperative problem solving. Such an approach will not erode the principal’s authority, but can lead to better decisions in schools.
- Long-term progress in family-school partnerships requires systematic, all-inclusive solutions and consistent leadership support.
- When parent involvement becomes a mutual programme goal, and parents, educators and administrators work together as a team to develop a plan for reaching the standards, substantial progress results. The principal provides the leadership; the programme standards provide the vision.
How to Begin
Belief in the importance of parent involvement is a necessary foundation, but the following steps outline a process for developing and maintaining growth in this vital component of education.
- Create an Action Team – Involve parents, educators and administrators in reaching a common understanding and in setting mutual gorals to which all are committed.
- Evaluate Current Practice – Review the current status of parent involvement. Survey staff and parents to gain a clear understanding of the current situation.
- Develop a Plan of Improvement – Identify first steps and priority issues. Develop a comprehensive, well-balanced plan.
- Develop a Written Parent/Family Involvement Policy – A written policy establishes the vision, common mission and foundation for future plans.
- Secure Support – For optimal success, keep stakeholders aware of the plan and willing to lend support to its success. Stakeholders are those responsible for implementation, those who will be affected, and those outside the programme who have influence over the outcome.
- Provide Professional Development for staff – Effective training is essential. Provide the staff with opportunities to interact with the issue, work together and monitor progress.
- Evaluate and Revise the Plan
A parent and family involvement programme merits a process of continuous improvement and a commitment to long-term success.
While the “ideal parent” is a rarity, schools can do much to increase parental involvement. Improving parent involvement, particularly among at-risk populations, is one of the most challenging tasks facing educators today. Here are a few thoughts and ideas to build and increase parent involvement at your local school.
- Hold your first parent meeting at a fast-food restaurant.
- Hold a “Parent University” programme right at your school.
- Provide “Fact Cards” for parents with school name, address, phone number, name of principal, school secretary, school nurse, PTA president—perhaps a refrigerator magnet.
- Establish “Take Home Friday” as day to send school papers home.
- Send home tape recorded messages in parents’ own language.
- Provide a short newsletter for parents—consider Parents Make the Difference!
- Remember “30-3-30” in writing school newsletters.
- Remember the R10 bill rule for school newsletters.
- Write for parents at 4th to 6th grade level.
- Try Brown Bag Seminars— parenting programme at work site during lunch hour.
- Use the key communicator system to control the rumour mill.
- Know THE SECRET to getting parents to attend meetings at school.
- Remember the 3 “F”s for success—Food, Families, Fun.
- Understand and use the 80-20 rule for parent groups.
- Take heart from the one-third rule which research has revealed for achieving improved pupil achievement through parent involvement.
- Use videotape to show busy parents their children in action.
- Use refrigerator notes.
- Encourage “Sunshine Calls,” “Thinking of You” Calls.
- Understand the fact that teachers are more reluctant to contact parents than parents are to contact teachers. Work to overcome the problem.
- Put up parent-friendly signs at school—directing them to the office.