It’s never too early to encourage parents to get involved with their child’s education. The sooner they establish a connection with the school, the more involved they’ll be as their child gets older. A solid Parent Teacher Association (PTA) can bridge the gap between home and school for a lifetime of student success.
The National Standards for Family-School Partnerships describes that it takes three steps to run a successful PTA:
- Raising awareness about how parent involvement boosts student success.
- Taking action by encouraging parent involvement through programs and practices.
- Celebrating success as families become more involved and progress is made.
Before heeding someone’s advice, you’d first want to know it’s going to work, right? So of course it should be explained to parents as early as possible the importance of their involvement as it relates to their child’s success. After all, children do spend 70% of their waking hours outside of school, and, without reinforcement, 66% of information is lost in one day. With stats like that, it’s safe to say that parents’ involvement is crucial.
Consider encouraging families to participate in their child’s learning by letting them in on the amazing things that can happen when they do:
- Students will achieve greater academic success and motivation, as a class.
- Parents become more confident in their parenting.
- Your established bond and consistent communication with parents will boost parents’ attitude toward teachers, as they will come to appreciate the challenges teachers face daily.
- Students. Will. Behave. Better.
- Parents in low-income families are more encouraged to participate when they are statistically the least likely to.
As part of your welcome packet, you can share and discuss this infographic with parents.
Despite the research about the many positive outcomes that result from parent involvement, many parents don’t feel welcome to be a part of their child’s education, whether it’s because they are intimidated by the school environment or simply don’t know they are invited to be a partner. Before you can get started with your PTA, you need to put out the welcome mat and provide ways for parents to get involved. Establish your partnership with them, its goals, and how parents can be active participants.
The First Parent Interaction of the School Year
The beginning of the school year is a fresh start for everyone, and it’s the perfect time to establish new, good habits. Hold a meeting with parents or create a webinar to introduce yourself as early as you can to open the lines of communication and get on the same page about your goals for the school year. Encourage parents to share their wishes and concerns for their child and develop goals together.
Be sure that parents know how best to reach you and access important information from the school by instructing them on how to use your school’s communication tools, such as parent portals. Some childcare management systems come with these tools and may provide parents with step-by-step guides for using these types of communication tools.
Provide various ways to be involved
Dealing with multiple families means multiple obstacles to parent involvement at school events or simply communicating with you. You’ve tried everything from being more flexible about your meeting times and locations to offering more classroom activities, but you still feel like you could be connecting with more families?
Here are some strategies to accommodate as many families as you can for maximum participation:
Survey parents. No two classes’ families are the same. Rather than guess how willing and able this year’s parents are to participate in activities and conferences, survey them. In a Google form, for example, you could ask parents about their availability, their interest in activities, and how they wish to communicate with you and with each other.
Set up an online calendar. For meetings and volunteer opportunities, create a calendar that parents can use to claim available time slots.
Encourage participation from home. For families with low income, smartphones are oftentimes the only access to the internet. Hold parent-teacher conferences over FaceTime or any of the free apps that have a similar video call feature (Skype, Google Duo, WhatsApp, etc.). Even consider holding a general parent meeting or classroom activity through Facebook Live.
Assign home-school parent liaisons or create parent committees to assist with parent communication and event organization. Perhaps you can incentivize this role by offering a discount on tuition.
Communicate by text. For use cases like a reminder for all parents to bring in their child’s favorite book or be aware of their child’s homework assignment, send it in a text you know parents will read. Using a parent engagement app like EZSmiles allows you to mass text families without giving out your personal number and provides the option for parents to translate your message in Spanish.
Offer childcare services for meetings. If it’s feasible, work together with your fellow teachers and staff to coordinate child care for parents during parent-teacher conferences to reduce obstacles to attending.
Welcome other family members to be involved. It takes a village! Remember that parents are not the only adults who can assist with a child’s education. Remind parents of this, too!
Give perspective. Share with parents about their child’s success, compared with that of the rest of the class. Knowing exactly where their child places may prompt parents to pay closer attention and monitor progress at home.
Provide parent resources on your website or in a shared Google drive – from child development to babysitter referrals to activities for the whole family. Draw attention to the resources by highlighting one in your newsletter each month.
Regularly host a webinar or podcast. There’s a lot of things that are more easily explained in person than in writing alone – perhaps an example of how to complete a math problem or demonstrating a concept that you’d like parents to try at home. It may sound like a hassle, but it may save you time, keeping all parents in the loop at once while adding a nice touch.
Like your kids, your parents deserve to be recognized for a job well done – but how do you reward a grown adult? It won’t be the same way you acknowledge your kids, but the underlying elements will be. For your celebration to be positive reinforcement, it needs to be meaningful, personal, and a direct result of a specific positive behavior.
Here are some ways to celebrate parent success:
- Write a personal note, text, or email.
- Send a handwritten letter in the mail.
- Gift a discount or small gift card.
- Publicly recognize a parent “Parent of the Month” in your newsletter, website, social media, or bulletin board.
- Create and send your kudos in a clever video.
No matter the type of school you are, it’s always a good idea to establish a PTA. By doing so, you will set the tone for both your pupils and parents to think positively about education and strive to be better in their respective roles – even improve their relationship with each other. It takes time to create and perfect a PTA, but one you’ve built a framework around raising awareness for its importance, taking action to provide multiple opportunities for parent involvement, and celebrating your families’ successes, you’ll begin to notice that the benefits of your partnership were well worth it.