Teachers and schools are given so much responsibility for the success of students, they sometimes are left thinking they – the teachers and school administrators – need to be the solution to every challenge students have.
We like to share a gentle reminder that the school does not need to be the solution to every problem. In fact, with help, parents can and should play a large role in the success of students.
But in order for parents to be partners who can work well with schools, they need to have a sense of belonging within the school environment too.
Parents? Yes! In schools we often think about how to make sure students have a sense of belonging in schools – and parents equally need a sense of belonging. There is no such thing as parent engagement or parent partnership without parent belonging.
So how can schools foster a sense of belonging for parents?
- Vision and Goals: Make sure every parent knows the school’s vision and goals. This comes from communicating the vision and goals over and over again, through multiple forums. Give parents an opportunity to hear, respond to, and engage with the school’s vision.
- Personal Introduction: Make sure at least one adult in the school has personally introduced themselves to the parent by name. This personal parent introduction could come in-person, from a phone call, or if time is constrained, an email or text message.
- Gift of Three: Within the first 90 days, make sure parents have the gift of knowing the name of at least 3 adults in the building – their child’s teacher, a school administrator, and one more adult! It may take multiple touch points – and when sending home materials, make sure that the name of the child’s teacher, a school administrator, and a place to contact the school is easily accessible.
- Use Their Name: When possible, greet parents by name. We know it’s tough – especially because protocols on last names are not so easy or straightforward. If you feel insecure about their name, you can say, “Chris’s mother – you’re going to have to remind me – how do you prefer I call you?” And let them tell you what to call them.
- Facilitate Further Connections: Parents don’t only need to be connected with school staff, they need to be connected to each other! The school can help. Create opportunities for parents to connect with other parents with overlapping common threads: children in the same classroom; children in the same grade; children on the same bus or at the same bus stop; children in the same after-school activities. How can parents have connections with other parents?
- Praise in the First 90 Days: Within the first 3 months of school, aim to communicate something positive to the parent – about either themselves or their child or children. Is there a parent who is struggling to get their kids to school on time? Find the time they are on time and call them and say, “I know how hard you all worked to get Charlene to school on time this morning. Thank you. It made such a big difference.” Or if a parent and child don’t have anything outstanding, you can call or write a note home that says, “Schools can often be unpredictable, but we appreciate that you all are such a steady, reliable presence in our school community.”
- Elevate their Voice: The greatest way to help parents belong is to let them know their voice matters. Give them a way to share their thoughts, ideas and needs. Of course, elevating parent voice and making it easy for parents to be included and belong is a huge part of why we created Possip. So while we are biased, this is one of our favorite tips 😊.
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