Improving Parent Involvement (page 2)
“One of the most important factors in creating a good school is always going to be parental involvement in its life”
(U.S. Department of Education, 1993, p.7.)
Parent involvement includes a wide variety of parent behaviors. Research indicates that what parents do at home with their children has more influence in their children’s academic performance, than how much parents are involved in their children’s school activities. Most often those parents who are most knowledgeable and engaged in their children’s school activities are also most nurturant of their children’s academic performance at home. When parents are involved, students perform most successfully and have fewer learning problems.
“According to scientific analysis, when parents are more involved, their children are 30% more successful in school”
(Parent Institute – www.parent-institute.com)
When parents fail to become involved, educators may have the tendency to blame the parents, as being “too busy, experience too may barriers to overcome to become involved, too disinterested, having their own problems."
This section of the website is designed to provide educators with suggestions of ways to proactively engage parents in the education of their children. Before “blaming” parents for non-involvement, it would be worthwhile to determine how many of the following suggestions your school has tried. This list of suggestions is designed to help educators view parents as resources and partners, rather than as obstacles.
The suggestions for improving parent involvement fall into the following categories:
- improving the school’s climate so it is more inviting to parents;
- improving communication (both written and oral) with parents;
- taking proactive steps to involve parents (“reaching out”);
- providing administrative support for parent involvement.
Once again, if the principal of the school is not committed to improving parent involvement and providing supports, then the amount of parent engagement would be limited. At the end of this section we have also included an example of how parents can be proactive in contacting the principals in an effort to reduce bullying.
1) Improving the School’s Climate
What happens when parents appear at your school? Parents are made to feel welcome. Welcoming office staff is helpful and courteous to the parents. There are signs that welcome parents to the school; teachers greet parents when they pass them in the hall; there is a parent reception area with written material, newsletters and coffee.
- Principal and teachers view parents as “partners.” They convey interest and cooperative collaboration when discussing the parent’s child. The importance of parent involvement and commitment is highlighted.
- School facilities are inviting (clean and neat school, bathrooms and cafeteria).
- School ensures that the parents’ and students’ ethnic, social and cultural diversity are represented and respected. Nurture cultural diversity so all students and parents feel welcome.
- School helps create a cohesiveness among parents (e.g., Parent Teacher Association meetings or volunteer parent activities such as inviting parents to attend opening morning, student assemblies, work as a group on improving playground or with fund raising activities).
2) Improving Communication with Parents – Written and Oral Written Communication With Parents
- Use multilingual messages to parents
- At the beginning of the school year teachers send a letter home to each parent highlighting how much they look forward to teaching their son/daughter, working with them as partners in education, establishing an ongoing dialogue regarding their child’s progress, and extending an invitation to contact the teacher.
Sample letter adapted from Walker et al. 2004
Just a quick note to welcome your child to my classroom. I am looking forward to the school year and getting to know you and your child. Always feel free to get in touch with me by (list telephone number, email address) and I will get back to you as soon as I can. Our working together will make this a successful school year for your (son, daughter – include name). Over the first few weeks of school we will be (provide brief summary).
I look forward to teaching (student’s name).
- Provide parents with a Parent’s Handbook that includes school rules, policies, activities, Mission Statement, Code of Conduct, names of key personnel, telephone numbers and a classroom calendar.
- Provide parents with ongoing Class Newsletter about what students will be working on and why it is important (e.g., description of unit objectives, types of problems and assignments, list of books to be used, and ways parents can be of help). Indicate that their daughter/son will be interviewing them about various topics, learning strategies, and the like.
- Indicate that students will be bringing home a folder of their schoolwork labeled TAKE HOME / BRING BACK. There will be spaces for parents to initial and comment on their son/daughter’s work.
- Ask parents to fill out a Survey Questionnaire about their child’s reading behavior (e.g., list of books read to student, average amount of reading time, leisure reading habits, favorite books, authors, reading strengths and weaknesses).
- Send parents occasional TEACHER-GRAM and invite them to send back a PARENT-GRAM about their child’s progress. Include GOOD NEWS NOTES of student’s progress and achievements. Encourage parent to ask “what” and “how” questions of “what” their son/daughter did and “how” did he/she go about doing the task. Discuss the processes of learning and reinforce efforts.
- Send home parent requests on how they can be of help as illustrated in the following parent memos:
MEMO 1 Example
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO ABOUT BULLYING
(These suggestions have benefited from the guidelines offered by K. Dorrell, Oct. 2006 www.canadaliving.com and from the Massachusetts Medical Society guidelines on bullying www.massmed.org.)
1) Talk about bullying with your child.
Help your child know what bullying looks like and feels like, and if he/she or classmates are being mistreated and bullied.
Help your child understand that bullying involves more than physical aggression.
Sometimes bullying can be verbal and social in the form of name calling, hurtful teasing, threats, humiliation, gossiping or spreading rumors and damaging
Let your child express him/herself. If your child reports being bullied, then there
are a number of steps for you to take.
- Stay calm and show concern, but do not show too much emotion. If you
overrespond your child may close down and not talk about it anymore.
- Thank your child for sharing this information. Tell him/her that what he/she
told you bothers you and label it as "bullying." Tell your child that this
behavior is unacceptable.
"Someone is bullying you and this concerns me. You are important and you have a right to feel safe, so we need to do something about this."
2) Ask your child for his/her input on what steps can be taken to make him/her feel safe. Collaborate with your child in finding solutions. Reassure your child that the situation can be handled discreetly and safely. Boost your child's sense of empowerment and control.
3) Parents should talk to the school. Approach your school with five goals in mind:
- Establish a partnership with school personnel in stopping the bullying.
- Encourage your child to come with you and describe what he/she experienced. After your child describes the bullying situation, you should repeat the facts. Express yourself calmly and then ask how you, the school personnel, and your child can work together to ensure that the bullying doesn't happen again.
- Start with your child's teacher and don't assume she is aware of the situation.
- Don't demand or expect a solution on the spot. Indicate that you would like to follow-up to determine the best course of action. Have your child watch you calmly and respectfully problem-solve with the school personnel.
- Get everyone on board. Research shows that the most effective method of dealing with bullying is to have the whole school involved. Approach the principal and explore what the school is doing about bullying. (See parent letter below). Review school policies and procedures with your child.
4) Document bullying. Keep a journal of all bullying incidents. You and your child should write down what happened, where and when it occurred, how your child reacted, how the bully and bystanders responded. Indicate what solutions were agreed upon and if they worked.
5) Help your child develop strategies and skills in handling bullying. Help him/her chose a variety of strategies from being assertive, to avoiding, to asking for help, to reporting bullying of other students. Parents can act as models for their children and intervene when they see bullying occurring. Some victims of bullying may need assistance in learning these coping skills. Children who are being bullied may have to practice skills as ways to look the bully in the eye, stand tall, use a firm voice, and stay calm; ways to use humor; ways to ask for help; learn ways to become friendlier with other children, participate in group activities; learn constructive ways to interact and achieve their goals. Help your child appreciate that reporting bullying to a trusted adult is not tattling or snitching. It takes courage. Suggest that he/she go with a friend to the teacher or principal to make it easier.
6) If you are informed that your child is bullying others, then you should:
- Be objective and listen carefully to the account. Don't be defensive, nor take it personally.
- Work with the school to find what can be done to ensure that this does not occur again.
- Asked to be kept informed.
- Calmly explain to your child what he/she is accused of and ask for an explanation, and ask if he/she knows that such bullying behavior is unacceptable.
- Find out if your child was the instigator of the bullying or joined in. Find out if your child is bullying by means of computers (cyber-bullying) and take appropriate steps to curtail this behavior.
- Don't bully your child in addressing your child's behavior. Help your child appreciate how bullying behavior hurts not only the victim, but also him/herself, as well as bystanders.
- Indicate that you will work with your child to alter this behavior and you will work with the school personnel to monitor progress.
7) Whether your child is a victim of bullying or engaging in bullying behaviors, don't give up. Indicate that your child and all children in school have a right to feel safe and feel they belong in school. Indicate that together with your child, and the school personnel, you will create a team approach to achieve the goals of safety for all students.
MEMO 2 Example
WAYS PARENTS CAN HELP REDUCE SCHOOL BULLYING
- Discuss the school’s Code of Conduct with your child. The Code of Conduct describes the rules your child’s school follows. You can obtain a copy of the Code of Conduct from the school, your child’s Student Handbook, or visit our school’s website, which is (xxx). Show your support for the school rules. Help your child understand the reasons for the school rules.
- Involve your child in setting rules for appropriate behavior at home, highlighting the importance of rules. Have your child bring in his/her home rules to school to share with the class.
- Listen to your child if he or she shares concerns about friends and about other students. Ask explicitly if your child has witnessed “bullying,” that is someone being picked on, shoved, or someone rejected by fellow students. Has that ever happened to them? What did they do? What did other students who were bystanders do? If your child had a problem in school, does your child have the name of a trusted teacher or staff member that he or she could go to for help? Please share the information you obtain from your child with trusted school personnel.
- Know what is going on in your child’s school. Keep a bulletin board at home. Hang the school calendar that we send home to post key dates and special events. Hang teacher communications such as the Peek of the Week memos, names of key school contact people, weekly meals, and other school related information.
- Set up a daily time to check-in with your child about school. We welcome your involvement in your child’s school life by supporting and reviewing your child’s homework and schoolwork. Please sign and return all requested teacher and school communications.
- Encourage your child to take part in school activities.
- Involve your child in family and community activities.
- Please attend school functions such as school and class programs, and parent conferences.
- Volunteer to participate in school and in community–related activities, if time permits.
- Please call, email, submit suggestions on how we can work as a team to make our school safer and a better learning place.
- We make a commitment that we will remain in touch with you and we invite you to remain in touch with us.
Thank you for being a partner in the education of your child. Your involvement is very important and unique.
Oral Communication (Phone Calls And Meetings) with Parents
- Call each parent (at least once per year, preferably once per term) to give feedback conveying something the student did well.
- Implement a LIFT program – Linking The Interest of Families and Teachers. This is a skills training program for both students and parents and includes a LIFT LINE of phone-message/answering machine that allows teachers to record messages to parents about classroom and homework activities, and provide information regarding their children. Parents can leave feedback messages for teachers on teachers’ answering machines. It costs about $60 per month per classroom to implement the LIFT LINE: establish bilingual hotlines. For more information, see:
Eddy. J., Reid, J. & Tetrow, R. (2000). An elementary school-based prevention program targeting modifiable antecedents of youth delinquency and violence: Linking the interests of families and teachers (LIFT). Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 8, 165-176
Walker, H. M., Ramsey, E., & Gresham, F. M. (2004). Antisocial behavior in school. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning
- Return parents' calls and notes in a timely manner.
- Keep a running log of each telephone call, noting date, topic, follow-up plan.
- Schedule meetings with parents to review their child’s progress and classroom behavior. Students may attend some parent-teacher conferences, showing work and becoming a self-advocate.
- Communicate with parents about homework and how they can be of help (e.g., rules about settings, times, ways to motivate students and ways to balance homework with other activities).
Proactive Steps to Involve Parents
- Invite parents to attend and participate in various school activities (e.g. stay with children during lunch, visit morning assemblies, classroom, student-led activities).
- Encourage attendance at parent-teacher meetings, back-to-school nights, open houses where students have opportunities to showcase their work.
- Invite parents to assist in class, volunteer, have list of things parents can do to help at school.
- Welcome parents’ input about their son’s/daughter’s progress.
- Address possible barriers to parent involvement such as demands on their time (both parents work) by using a flexible schedule, provide transportation, provide child care while parent visits school, address possible parental attitudinal reservations about visiting school.
- Involve parents and grandparents as classroom presenters to share history and to engage in projects with students.
- Have students generate and post family trees in class.
- Undertake specific out-reach efforts to engage parents. For example, use respected community leaders to reach out to parents, have family learning centers in storefronts or churches, hold parent-night in a laundromat where parents who attend have free access to washers and dryers.
- Provide parents with training on how to read stories to their children, improve behavior management, and help with homework.
- Engage parents in their child’s learning process (e.g., math assignments, interviews, etc.).
For examples of ways to engage parents in their children’s learning, see
Meichenbaum, D. & Biemiller, A. (1998). Nurturing Independent Learners: Helping Students Take Charge of Their Learning. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books.
- For students who are having behavioral and learning problems, teachers can implement a HOME-SCHOOL CARD, where the student’s behavior is monitored throughout the school day and a contingent reward schedule is established at the home in the form of a behavioral contract (See LINK to Classroom Management MENU V C2).
Providing Administrative Support for Parent Involvement
- Conduct an assessment of what the school is now doing to involve parents and staff; generate both intervention and evaluation plans to determine their effectiveness.
- Monitor parent attendance and involvement. Try to understand the factors that contribute to nonparticipation and adjust accordingly (e.g., cultural compatibility of parental requests).
- Provide workshops for teachers on how to work collaboratively with parents.
- Support teacher efforts to involve parents (provide time, resources and money).
- Provide before-school and after-school programs for students to help accommodate parents’ work schedules.
- Provide specific skills programs for parents; help them access local services, GED programs, parent support groups, home-visiting outreach programs,
mental health services.
- Develop an active truancy prevention program that involves parents.
- Parents are encouraged to view their involvement as a responsibility and they are asked to sign a behavioral contract indicating their responsibilities to the education of their children (e.g., encourage parents to ask their son/daughter specific questions about classroom activities).
- How many of these activities to involve parents does your school engage in?
PARENT LETTER TO PRINCIPAL ABOUT BULLYING
Dear (name of Principal)
My wife and I have recently learned that our son/daughter (NAME) has been a victim of bullying at school (has engaged in bullying behavior) (has been a victim of bullying and on occasion has also bullied others). The source of our information comes from (indicate source – from your child, from other children, other sources of information). We are deeply concerned and would welcome an opportunity to meet with you and son/daughter’s name teacher. We would like to consider what we can all do to change the situation.
At our meeting, we would like to raise some questions, if that is okay.
- We are wondering if this bullying incident is unique to our child or is bullying a general problem at your school? How do you presently assess for the incidence of bullying?
- In our situation, the bullying occurred at recess in an unsupervised area. Are there any ways to improve the playground activities and improve the level of supervision?
- What are you doing school-wide and in the classroom to reduce bullying?
- Are your teachers trained to identify bullying incidents and on ways to intervene?
- How can parents help reduce bullying?
- Are there specific school services you provide to victims of bullies, to children who bully, to children who are both a bully and a victim?
Reprinted with the permission of TeachSafeSchools.org.
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