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Involving Parents and Influencing the Home so Students Achieve More

Are schools doing the right things to involve parents?

If you haven’t already, you will soon read about the fact that many state legislatures are providing funds to provide teachers with bonus’ who involve parents during the school year. While this idea has real merit as far as children’s achievement is concerned, the laws passed by these states only require parents to come to “back to school nights” and attend “parent-teacher conferences.” Those who wrote these laws and passed them have not read the research that shows this type of parent involvement is so limited in terms of its impact it is almost as if no contact is being made.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that schools typically use these times to educate parents about how to promote the objectives of the school while the children are in school rather than use these times to show parents what they can do in their families to develop mental skills, promote positive social and character skills, and acquire a “growth and learning” mindset. These are the ingredients for successful school achievement, social development, and a sense of fulfillment. Second, parents who come to these events are typically those whose children are doing at least fairly well and those who do not come are those where they are fearful of the schools or fear their children will be identified as failing. They will avoid contact in order to limit their exposure to negative things. So, those students who need help the most, are not being effectively reached.

What is more effective than parent-teacher conferences is helping students come to school prepared to learn and engage with the teacher and other students. Students perform better–regardless of income level and socioeconomic status–when they are taught at home how to participate successfully in the learning environment of a classroom. Recently, we conducted some unofficial research on this subject. We spoke with a few principals whose schools had performed the best. They all had one thing in common–students came from families that prepared them for school.

Parents who come to parent-teacher conferences, help out in the classrooms and volunteer in the PTA typically are committed to education and intentionally or not, create a culture at home that promotes learning and social development. How do schools reach the parents and families that really need help? There are others things schools could do that have much greater and lasting impact on families than parent-teacher conferences.

  1. Schools  can call a “Parents Make the Difference,” night and during this meeting raise expectations for what parents can do and then give them specific things like memory strategies, character activities, or achievement skills to practice and use at home.
  2. Teachers could take a few extra minutes to survey parents to learn what type of family cultural emphasis is given to hard work and to family traditional activities such as games, music, and celebrating their ethnic culture? On occasion the teacher could introduce types of similar activities to help the classroom match the culture of the children and parents. This brings parents into a real partnership with teachers, and it creates an environment that is more familiar and comfortable students–enhancing their ability to participate and engage in learning. For example, one inner city school teacher used rap rhythms and music to motivate kids to learn the multiplication tables. This worked faster with the students and they learned better.
  3. Teachers could communicate with parents about a working partnership to promote character qualities in class that parents are working to teach at home. Values like this matter to most parents, sometimes more than academic learning. When teachers show a desire to teach these and invite parents to join in–and provide a clear and comfortable path for parents to participate–a partnership is formed that reaps tremendous benefits for teachers who get greater student engagement, for parents who have support for their family, and for children who learn and achieve more.

If your school is not doing these things you could ask teachers to participate with you. Most will appreciate your interest and will work with you. Take a look at the tools for teachers and parents: "Add Power to Teaching" and "Add Power to Parenting" and see if they will be useful for you to give your kids a more powerful experience with character, learning, and achievement. It is the best we know of to provide teachers and parents a truly effective partnership.

Comments

08/03/2013 6:06pm
Wow, I'm so glad I stumbled upon this! I'm a violin teacher and was looking for some pointers as to know what kind of games and fun things to involve my students in. And my relationship with their parents up to this point has been awkward. Now that I've been learning just how much the environment can affect ones learning, I'm so creating outlets and connecting more now! Thank you!
08/05/2013 8:56am
That's great! Thank you for commenting. We love to hear when teachers are able to create new connections with their students and parents. This type of engagement really is one of the most powerful tools teachers can have. Good luck, and thanks again.

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