Engaging Parents in the Learning Process

Some of the most challenging and rewarding times as an educator surround developing genuine ties with families.  Though these are difficult waters to navigate, all of us need to develop the courage to initiate, foster, and preserve family relationships. Families who have a home-school partnership are deeply knowledgeable about their child's strengths and weaknesses.  They have children with higher grades and test scores, more regular attendance at school, and better life-long social skills. A successful recipe for developing effective home-school partnerships often comes from the right combination of the following ideas.

Demonstrate a Caring Attitude:


Every parent sends the best child they can to school each day. When communicating with parents, it is important to articulate a culture of caring, demonstrating empathy for each child and their family.  Parents who believe their child is well cared for not only academically, but physically and socially, are more apt to build a trusting relationship with the teacher.

Flexible, Open Communication:


Communicate through multiple means to engage parents in the learning process.  No longer is communicating through required conferences and traditional newsletters an adequate or effective way to communicate. Engage parents in an ongoing dialogue about their child's academic progress and behavior at school through e-mail, social media, written notes, phone calls, and home visits. Parents care about their child's progress, and the more transparent the process, the more trust that can develop between the school and home.  

Results Oriented:  


Frequent, focused communication that is solution-oriented is more successful than placing daily calls to tell the parent about the child's misbehavior.  Recognizing the strengths of children, believing in children, and seeking a path of success for children builds healthy partnerships.

Safe Environment


Beyond building a trusting and caring relationship between parents and teachers, communicate that school is a safe place both emotionally and physically for every child in the building. Share the positive stories that emerge from the school each day. No success story is too small to share with a family. Families need to read about the success of their child, their class, and their school. Telling these stories regularly allows parents to define their own reality regarding school safety rather than rely on the skewed media representation that can distort their perception.

Clear Expectations


Clearly communicate classroom-based expectations for students and adults in order to nurture relationships ripe with trust.  Make sure that parents are aware of grading systems, rubrics, due dates, and guidelines as this helps parents to support the school in times when their child may work contrary to their potential at home.

Tips to Help Children


Parenting decisions are often puzzling.  The reality is that most parents are making decisions about education based on their prior knowledge and personal school experiences. Help parents by serving as a parenting coach and provide families ideas that can create success in the classroom as well as in their home. Building this capacity in parents benefits the child for years to come.


This post was co-authored by Dr. Melissa Nixon, Director of Title I, Guilford County Schools, Greensboro, NC