I would like to start a discussion about Parent Involvement and how to get parents involved in the classroom, I believe that many parents are involved in the school simply to monitor what the teacher and the school are doing. They want to know what is going on and how does it effect their own children. Can they trust the school to do a good job? Consequently we have parents as volunteers, fundraisers, and members of parent councils. All good things. But are these roles actually connecting parents to the classroom and supporting student learning?

I hear over and over that teachers what more parents to be involved. What does that mean to you? How do you involve parents in school work? How do you connect parents to what you are teaching? What do you expect of parents?
Share your success stories.

Tags: achievement, classroom, parent, strategies, student

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Lorna,

Don't know what level you are working at. It is much easier to get parents involved at the elementary level than at secondary level.

First of all, initiate contact with your parents. This can be by phone or via a website or blog. Be sure to include your email address and encourage parents to write you. On your website or blog, give the parents to write to you about, perhaps getting them to choose a project from two/three possibilities, or choose where to go on a class trip. Find out what you parents' talents and hobbies are in addition to their jobs if any. Keep that in mind when planning activities and call those parents with useful skills to help you plan, or to come to the classroom and share what they have/know. Parents and grandparents should be encouraged to come to class and read to the students or share music with the kids.

On your website or blog, which you should update at least weekly, include something that will encourage parents to check the site regularly. Perhaps instruction in how you will be teaching an upcoming unit, the online sources that can provide background information for a unit or lesson, or places to go to find how-tos on a project that they can do with their kids. Send home regular reminders on paper to tell parents to check your website or blog to find xxxxxx.

One thing you can provide for the parents is a link to online free stories/books they can print and read with their children. Go to: http://www.educationalsynthesis.org/books and they can print out personalized stories that may correspond with your curriculum or provide extra reading material. Links to site on medical and parenting information would also be useful. Encourage parents to sharee with you good site they find, so that you can share them with the rest of the parents.

Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Thanks Anne
I am looking for suggestions for both elementary and secondary classes. I agree so much with the communicate, communicate but that takes time. How would you help other teachers get in the same mind set as you?
Do you have an example of you used your blog to engage parents in student work?
Lorna
Lorna,

My advice is in retrospect, I am retired. There was no such as a blog when I taught last, but I did have webpages both when I last taught elementary students: http://www.educationalsynthesis.org/mrsp which parents as well as K-2ers used at home and at school (it has been updated a lot since then), and, the last time I taught high schoolers, I used http://www.educationalsynthesis.org/mrsp/gov ... Since I was teaching high school seniors that last semester, I really did not expect parents to use it as much as the students.

During my career, I had close relationships with some parents as a high school special ed teacher, since the parents came to sign IEP;s at the end of the year. I had a rule that each student had to come to their own IEP meeting, and this served to bring out the parents. Sometimes, if a parent didn't have transportation, I asked another student to ask his/her parents to pick up the unfortunate ones. This was in a rural area. I called parents when I needed that parent to do something, and sent messages home to the students specific to their parents as needed.

When I later taught computerss in an elementary school (When I made Mrs P's Links), there was not problem geetting the students involved. The school was the most open to parents I had ever seens. On any day there were parents walking around freely and welcomed. It was a school tradition and the parents were very responsive. \

So, my advice is to do what I did - communicate, communicate, communicate - but you have newere tools to use now than I had back when I was in your seat.
This is a really important topic. I run a software company that (among other things) helps teachers make interactive class websites (ChitChat). It's really young and evolving pretty rapidly, and I've been trying to figure out the best way to build parents in... right now we've got a basic way for people (students or parents) to sign up for class alerts (like 'remember your permission slips') and a simple messaging system that invites people to send teachers messages via our application (just in case for one reason or another email isn't a good channel).

The issue I'm contending with is how to invite parental collaboration without damaging a teacher's autonomy or making them feel like parents might gang up on them. Parental discussion boards and teacher rating systems are probably out! But I'm interested in considering other options: surveys, for example, so a teacher can invite feedback in a way that's useful to them. What if a parent was invited to submit a lesson idea, or there was an open poll on what parents liked best about the class? Any other ideas? If you all had the perfect parental communication system, what would it offer? How have you driven parental traffic to your class website in the past? Lorna, when you say "that takes time" about communication, what do you mean?

Again, great, important topic!
Hi Jack Thanks for your comments. You have hit on the essence of the issues around getting parents involved. Teacher autonomy and gang wars. That sounds harsh but these are critical issues that arise in every classroom. The power struggle and how to reach a middle road.

I think that "what parents need" should be the beginning of any discussion when framing ideas about working with parents. Yes, students are the focus but if you examine people's patterns we congregate around people and ideas we like. Parents - they are interested in their own children first. What a teacher does is always viewed in that context. I suggest that parents be asked what it is they need to know before they are told what you need them to do or know

Parents, ( we are parents) like children come in all shapes and sizes and have varied interests and needs, So there is no one size fits all solution. There is no one perfect parent communication system. If you are speaking specifically about using technology I think that the future will be in blogs or similar content management systems.

Now to get parents there. One way ( one I don't recommend) - talk about all the negative things going on in a school. People love the parking lot talk. I have seen a lot of active sites where parents are angry. But that doesn't achieve the goal of working together.

Parents come to a web site when other parents direct them. Like every other marketing job a good job speaks for itself.

What I meant with the comment "takes time" is there is little spare time in the day for the classroom teacher to fit in working with parents.

Takes time to set up a blog/web site/ make phone calls/ play telephone tag/ teach 60 students 25 with special needs/coach the volleyball team and on... It take some good leadership and user friendly tools to overcome the barriers raised in the day to day operation of a school and break the mold.

I am looking for examples of how teachers have taken a unit of study and built parent participation into the unit and of course used a blog to communicate with the parents
Hi Lorna,
I've had great luck actually brining parents (and grandparents, neighbors, any elders in kids' lives that they deem important) into discussions with the students on my class ning network. Actually, some of the most profound learning I can imagine is going on there: kids interview parents and others about topics such as "What was a significant turning point in your life?" "What was one of the most beautiful places you've ever seen?" and post what they learn in the interviews (which is a great, heart-felt way to increase writing skills). Then all the kids get to see each other's interviews, respond to them, ask more questions of the parents and significant elders, and get suggestions for more questions. It makes us a thriving community, extends our thinking on out into the world, through the close connections of family and friends.
Recently I had the students take their parents on a "tour" of our ning, and each parent responded with an overall perspective about what we're doing on our network. The comments were universally supportive--and I got a lot more ideas for what to do next to involve our extended learning community. Parents can see other parents' responses, the kids interviews, the kids' profile pages and blogs, everything. I think this networking is uniting us in a way I've never been able to activate before. It's all coming together.
Also, I'm having the students take their classmates on Google Earth tours of "places of family importance," which involves the parents in researching family history with their children, so that everything can be shared. This has been amazing: we all look at each other and think about what a miracle and delight that all those combined histories brought us here, together, right now.
Hi Connie Thank you for sharing your ideas. May I quote you in my blogs? Lorna
Certainly, Lorna. And thanks for starting the discussion!
Hi Connie
Do you have a link to your class ning network. I'd like to share it if I may. Thanks Lorna
Hi Lorna,
The class ning is private. If you want some posts for examples, tell me what sort of thing you're looking for and I'll see if I can get permission to quote some students, parents, or elders. Just let me know.
All very helpful! So what we might do is allow the teacher to add a discussion board to their class and control access to individual threads so that they can keep many just for students, but sometimes create others with specific purpose to solicit the opinions of other constituents.
Hi
I am a parent and I am highly involved in school. My kids study at the 4th and 8th grades. Next year I will have a new first grader and my eldest will go to high school.
I will be happy to tell you about all sorts of involvements and what gets the parents.
Some parents will never get involved, but the way. The involvement depends on the type of parents a lot.

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