Engaging Parents: Let’s Get Real
Engaging families goes beyond having a big welcome sign on the door. How welcoming is your program? Do you know what issues are families facing? Are there staff assumptions regarding parents? Are families empowered and honored? Is parental input an integral part of the program? How is information shared with families?
Here are some ideas to ponder.
There are so many ways for your school to benefit from parent involvement. Do you have a rich volunteer program? A richly decorated volunteer bulletin board with pictures, Volunteer of the month certificate, and letters of recognition can help you highlight the program. Invite parents to volunteer in areas they enjoy whether reading a book, working in the office, or creating bulletins. Sometimes a snide remark by staff can distance parents. You will need to train staff about how to properly work with volunteers. Hanging up posters detailing what volunteers can do to help, is a great way to ensure effective support.
Supporting Home Learning
How do you stretch the learning? Children spend so many hours at home. Teach parents to carryover the learning. Make home learning exciting by sending home assignments in customized paper bags, or sending easy puppets for children’s reading partners. Programs
It takes a Village
Establishing community relations will help both your program as a hole, as well as the parents. Brightly colored flyers advertising events to the community can attract an audience. Meet with local educational groups to “talk shop” about how you can best help families. Give community organizations as much accurate information as possible about your Head Start program, students’ skills and resources, and community service. Create a booklet and/or video that provide helpful information to community organizations about Head Start policies, personnel, assistance, resources, and volunteer opportunities.
Setting up Events
Considering varied family needs and preferences when scheduling meetings and events. Think about offering child care, transportation, and refreshments for participating families. Fun name tags are a great way to welcome parents. Don’t forget-staff should wear name tags too!
Establishing Parent Places
Do parents have where to hang out in your program? Set up a mini parent lounge with educational magazines, comfy chairs, a water cooler, and let parents shoot a breeze. Maintain a welcoming bulletin board that includes visitor information, announcements, news articles, and photographs of recent school events.
Remember, a smile is the universal welcome! How do you engage families? Leave your comments below!