Ways to Engage the Village

Increasing parent and community involvement in local schools is key— you know that—but there’s always the question of how. What works, especially for parents of at-risk students? I’ve outlined my best tips below:

Shift your mindset: Make yourself remember parents are doing their best. Even when their behavior is hard to understand parents really do want to do what is best for their children. We, outsiders, have no idea what challenges and struggles are influencing their behavior at home. Do your level best to project a feeling of respect and support, because people always do their best when they feel others believe in them.

Bring back board games: Put fun family games in your library to be borrowed by students and played at home with their families. An excellent source of inexpensive board games is Goodwill or other resale shops.

Communicate: Promote regular meaningful contact with parents, and make it positive if possible!Consider how many good things happen everyday in your classroom— how many do you share with parents? A quick note home is the easiest way to share. Students will give positive notes to their parents! Don’t forget to include separated or divorced parents. Paper newsletters, phone calls, face to face contacts, school and classroom websites, email, text messages and even some forms of social media are also vehicles to increase communication. Be especially wary of online communications as many are governed by school board policies. Check with your principal about your school policies concerning online communications.

Survey: Want people to be involved? Ask parents and citizens about ways they might be interested in participating in the school.

Welcome visitors: Make sure your parents and community members feel welcome by calling or writing every parent and invite them to participate. Consider having students write their parents to ask them to be involved as a classroom activity. Encourage parent volunteers and chaperones. Project a feeling that volunteer support is needed and appreciated. Expand the types of volunteer activities to include things like playground clean ups or other outdoor work. Remember to thank your volunteers after they have helped.

Use interactive assignments: Help parents be more engaged in their child’s learning by getting them involved in their homework. For example, an older student might be required to interview an adult about how society has changed since he/she was in high school. A primary school student could be asked to go on a number hunt with an adult and list ten places in their home where they found numbers. The simplest form of this can be a requirement that an adult check and sign a homework paper.

The more types of people and groups engaged in a child’s education, the higher success they will have. Increase parent and community involvement with these tips, and see the village come to life!