Many schools and districts across the country have found unique and effective ways for teachers to keep parents interested in the students’ summer school education.
Educators in the Clinton Community School District in Clinton, Iowa, focus on developing partnerships with well-known and respected organizations to encourage engagement, as well as extend resources to families. For example, a Families Get Fit partnership with the local YWCA encourages families to get fit together through a variety of fitness and nutrition activities. Similarly, an Eat with Me campaign with a local substance abuse organization promotes wellness and family mealtime.
Communication is another key for keeping Clinton parents engaged. Clinton’s summer and afterschool programs keep parents informed through regular newsletters and a variety of family events, such as Family Night in which families come to the school to enjoy dinner together before sitting down with program staff to discuss the program and any issues.
Philadelphia parents can get involved in their child’s summer literacy education through a partnership between the School District of Philadelphia and nonprofit organization Springboard Collaborative. The program offers parent workshops that teach the most effective methods for reading with children, which gets parents involved, improves literacy achievement, and prevents the summer slide. Parents or other caregivers sit and read with their own children while the teacher observes and offers helpful suggestions, such as to make predictions about the story and ask the child questions, enabling parents to support the teacher’s efforts at home.
The National Education Association offers additional tips for educators to foster parental engagement:
- Focus on the positive. A great way to build a successful teacher-parent relationship is to reach out to the parent before there’s a problem. Focusing on the child’s successes will help parents be more open to also discussing any challenges.
- Share school experiences. Find fun ways to keep parents informed about classroom milestones, activities, and events, such as by creating a regular classroom newspaper written by students that showcase their own skills while also keeping parents informed.
- Find common ground. Ask parents for input about their children. This promotes a feeling of partnership between parents and teachers and improves communication. Sending parents a survey about their children at the beginning of the program is one way a teacher can demonstrate they are interested in the parent’s perspective.
- Entice parents into school. Providing a link between school and home is key to making parents feel comfortable and engaged. Educators might consider offering informal workshops and classes for parents or allowing them to come in to use computers or fax machines to check e-mail or apply for jobs.
- Visit parents directly. Visiting with parents in their own home will show a real effort on the part of the teacher to get to know her students and can also offer additional insight into a student’s family and home life.