Partnering with Parents
An interested parent can partner with teachers in the classroom or school setting. Partnering at school is an excellent option, especially in the elementary grades and where the classroom teacher may need extra assistance. Families that value education are appreciated by schools as their involvement in their child’s education complements the school’s efforts. However, the barriers of time, feelings of parental inadequacy, and confusion about how to be involved all need to be addressed in order to get parents to partner. Parents are, more often than not clueless about how they may help out in the classroom and in other extra-curricular ways.
The best way to ensure parental involvement is through encouragement and a warm approach from the teacher. The attitudes and actions of the school outweigh any barriers or even previous volunteer experience. Understanding how the parent can help and providing them with the necessary options to do so can avoid confusion and lead to a smoother partnership. A welcome letter sent to the parents can be seen as a warm gesture from the teacher and can also give the parent an open invitation to partnering.
Having informal meetings where parents and teachers can interact in a general manner can help build a basis for the partnering to begin. Steps can then evolve from these interactions to more formal encounters and activities where the parents can be of assistance.
Parents are more likely to want to participate in the school if they feel part of the team and this can be done by the school making attempts to provide a welcoming atmosphere. Signs that point to the office, a place to sign in, name badges, and a warm, courteous greeting by the office staff all say to the parent, “We are glad you are here.” With all types of volunteering, sending a thank you note would be a great way to show appreciation.
Because of the multiple ways a parent may help out in the school, setting up volunteer opportunities at the beginning of the year can be very advantageous to the teacher. Offer a variety of ongoing jobs a parent could do in the classroom or school setting:
- Tutoring – Parents who enjoy working with children as well as those who are former teachers can be a terrific educational support to the classroom teacher. The parent who hasn’t worked with children, but has the desire can also be trained in how to present or reinforce a concept. Following a tutoring session, the parent might fill out an evaluation sheet for the teacher’s record.
- Reading Assistant – Many kids don’t get the opportunity to read aloud to an adult at home. This may be a perfect job for someone who wants to work with the students but doesn’t feel competent in leading a small group or tutoring a student. The listener can listen to a passage being read, model reading the passage first – then listen, or take turns reading. As the parent gets more comfortable, they may be trained on how to encourage expressive reading, improve fluency or check for comprehension.
- Career Day Volunteer – Parents who work in different professional fields might be given the opportunity to be part of a classroom where lessons relating to their particular profession are to be discussed. For example, a study of the human body can have a physician parent coming to help with the class. It may also make sense to have a career day where parents working in various fields come and share with the students about their particular area of expertise.
Above are only some of the many ways you can partner with parents. Learn more about partnering with parents in the online continuing education course: Partnering with Parents.
About the Author
Ellen Paxton is a respected expert in education and best known as the Chief Learning Officer of Professional Learning Board. As a two-time National Board Certified Teacher, Ellen has successfully published and customized online professional development courses and Learning Management Systems for 20 years to help teachers meet their state continuing education renewal credit requirements. Through ProfessionalLearningBoard.com, RenewaTeachingLicense.com, and ConnectedPD.com. Ellen has established solutions and maintained partnerships with several accredited universities, higher education institutions, teachers’ unions and state Departments of Education while setting strategic direction that makes a difference and overseeing implementation of popular online PD.