Parents are an essential part of a classroom team, they know their child better than anyone else. It is so important that we teachers find ways to get them engaged in their child’s education. Here are 5 ways to get parents engaged and develop a strong relationship with caregivers.
Communication is key To a strong relationship
If we want parents to be involved, we must communicate with them well and often. Make sure you let your parents and caregivers know:
- All the ways to get in touch with you… your email, school phone, etc.
- If you have specific times of the day you are going to send out info, respond to calls & emails, etc.
It is very helpful to set up a daily communication system. This system allows teachers to give a quick update on their child’s day, alert them to anything new or unusual and ask questions. There are a variety of ways to communicate daily with families. For example:
- Daily communication notebook that allows notes to go back and forth between school and home.
- Daily sheets that you just need to circle or fill in templates about the student’s day.
- A shared Google Doc
- Apps/online systems such as school tools, Seesaw message, etc.
Not everyone has the same preference for communication. Ask your caregivers how they prefer that you contact or communicate with them.
Keeping communication open and ongoing is one of the best and easiest ways to get parents engaged with school.
Caregivers are a valuable resource
When we ask families for their input on their child’s goals, progress, behaviors, etc. it gives us valuable info, but it also shows them that you know they are a resource. Caregivers know our students better than anyone.
Caregivers can give us valuable info on:
- Child’s likes and dislikes
- Strategies that work for their student
- Strategies or wording that have a history of not being successful
- Favorite reinforcers
- What their student excels at
Reaching out and asking for their input will make them feel important and secure in their role as part of the team. Just like it is important that we build relationships with our students, we must build relationships with their parents as well.
Homework as a tool for engaging families
Yup… I know this one might seem odd, but daily homework is a great way to connect with parents and help get them engaged in their child’s education.
I send home homework with my students daily Mondays-Thursdays. Our homework assignments are always something that:
- The student can do it independently
- Won’t take a great deal of time to complete
Having students do mastered work at home is a great way to build independence at home and show families what they are able to accomplish on their own.
Our homework also includes a cover sheet with a few questions for the child and caregiver to complete together. Here are the questions on our cover sheet:
- What did your student eat for dinner?
- What book did your student read?
- Who read the book? To see if it was read by the student or to him/her/
We include this section because teaching students to ask and answer questions is an area we target. This activity helps students learn to recall info and talk about events that happened in the past. Having the answers helps me give choices or prompts for students to answer the questions when we review homework.
Again, this is an opportunity to help caregivers feel like the valuable part of the team that they are.
Use newsletters or calendars to engage families
Sending home a weekly or monthly newsletter or calendar of events is a great way to share info with families. The more they know about your program and their child’s day, the more they can participate and help with generalization into the home and community.
Here are some things to share with caregivers:
- Weekly themes
- Vocabulary or core words you are targeting
- Weekly sight words or letter of the day activities
- Classroom schedules
- Reminders for changes to the schedule & days off
- Activities and suggestions for things families could do at home to support what students are learning in school.
I would suggest you make a template for your newsletter, this makes it a relatively quick and easy way to connect with parents and help them feel more connected to the school.
Invite caregivers into the classroom
Even if caregivers don’t end up coming into the classroom, knowing that they had the chance helps them feel a bond with the school team. Inviting families into the classroom is worth the effort.
Here are ideas on how to involve caregivers in the classroom:
- Family craft time around the holidays
- Put on an art show
- Science Fair
- Have families sign up to come read to the class
- Caregivers can come in and share a tradition with their family
Not only does inviting families in give us more face-to-face time with them, but watching students interact with their caregivers gives us valuable info. We get to see what their families expect from them, how students carry over or generalize their skills across people and how they interact with each other.
Parents are a crucial component of our classroom teams! I encourage you to find ways to get them engaged and involved in their child’s education … it benefits the parents, the students, and you.