During the summer, while reflecting on last year and looking to the next, now is the time to consider a new approach for getting families involved in the classroom for 2016. Whether you add a section to your newsletter, post some information on a webpage, send home an interest questionnaire, or offer sign up opportunities during midyear conferences or other school events, there are great opportunities to involve child guardians.
Family engagement is a key component to ensuring success for students no matter what their age; it’s just going to take on a different look at the various stages of a student’s educational journey. Is every parent going to jump on the bandwagon and add their name to all the volunteer forms that make it home? No, but in reaching out, you may capture the attention of the parent that didn’t know how to get involved (or put getting involved on their new school year resolution list). Not all parents come from backgrounds where family involvement in education was the norm. As educators, we need to help everyone find ways to get positively involved in their child’s quest for learning. Reading buddies, Career Day speakers, station helpers, chaperones, and field day planners are all classic roles parents can take on to assist in the classroom and/or school community. School PTO’s can be a wonderful on-site resource for an extra set of hands or helpers when needed. PTO Today offers some great ideas for finding and keeping happy parent volunteers.
Just because a parent can’t be physically present in the classroom doesn’t mean he or she can’t be involved. With hectic schedules and working parents, the way parents get involved may not take on the same appearance as it did in the past. Kindergarten parents could help you create stations by putting together items or pictures that all start with the same letter or rhyme. Fifth grade parents could construct pulleys or other items to be used during science experiments. Parents could also be asked to send in a list of ways they use math or reading/writing during the workday to reinforce real world connections to the classroom. Having students interview their parents to find out about special talents or interests could unveil a parent with a unique hobby or collection that may fit into your curriculum. Let parents tell you about themselves, and you may just be surprised by how their areas of expertise correlate with your topics of study. Getting to know your parents and creating opportunities for them to be involved will help students thrive.
When a child sees a parent making school a priority, the child will make it a priority too. Knowing that parents are in the loop will make students more likely to engage in conversations about what’s occurring in the classroom. Bridging the gap between home and school should go both ways though. As parents enter the world of the classroom, we also need to start thinking about ways to bring the classroom home. While the role of parent involvement can take on a new look, the idea of bringing the classroom home can paint an even brighter picture that keeps education at the forefront as students move beyond the walls of the classroom.