For many families, a new school year brings renewed excitement and hopes for more milestones and memories. It can also bring uncertainties and additional stress. While school can provide a safe and welcoming place for students to thrive, they often return to many of the obstacles and challenges they faced in previous years.
To help ease families back to school, administrators can put extra effort into promoting family engagement during the first few months back at school to set the tone for a productive and memorable year. Whether their children are anxious or excited about a new school year, parents and guardians who receive administrative support can help their children hit the ground running.
At the beginning of the year, there are plenty of opportunities to get parents and guardians involved with their children’s academic journeys. In this blog, we’ll go over parent engagement ideas that administrators can use to facilitate a healthy learning environment for their communities.
Every family member deserves to feel welcome when reconnecting with their educational community after the summer break, regardless of their language or culture. Whether it’s “Welcome,” “Bienvenidos,” or “Willkommen,” expressing welcome in different languages on banners, flyers, newsletters, or the school’s website is an excellent way for administrators to convey inclusiveness.
Translating messages and announcements into families’ preferred languages can also help address language barriers and encourage parents and guardians to engage with their children’s schools.
A back-to-school welcome event is an excellent way to set a positive tone for the new year. It’s a chance to help new students and families get acquainted with teaching staff, their classrooms, and other facilities. Open houses can also help parents and guardians become more familiar with curricular expectations, school and district policies, after-school programs, and other initiatives that help students meet their academic goals.
While onsite events provide opportunities one-on-one interactions, an open house may be difficult for some families to attend due to scheduling conflicts, health concerns, and other challenges. However, schools can still provide a warm welcome through live-streaming orientations and virtual classroom tours. Setting an online event can keep families connected so they don’t miss out on important information.
Some parents or guardians are willing and ready to support their children academically but may need some guidance or don’t know where to start. To help out these families, schools can offer in-person or online workshops on such topics as technology literacy, study strategies, and helping with homework. These workshops can be regular occurrences and provide scheduled topics and visits from guest experts.
Most parents and guardians want to stay updated on what their children are working on in class. To help families feel more engaged in their children’s learning, consider inviting them to sit in on classes or have lunch with their children.
However, in-class visits aren’t always feasible, especially with busy work schedules, location, or transportation challenges. In cases like these, school leaders can provide videoconferencing technologies and encourage teachers to invite families to log in to their children’s classrooms virtually—especially since many parents or guardians are familiar with joining virtual classrooms from remote learning during the pandemic.
Many families find time to read with each other and share their favorite stories. A school can establish a district-wide book club and publicize it early in the year. The principal might enlist teachers’ input and pick books that accommodate different grades and reading levels. Book selections can also reflect the cultural diversity of the school district, and some books can be in languages other than English.
To add accountability and encourage discussion, schools can schedule virtual book club meetings where students and families can read aloud sections of their books or raise issues for discussion. Teachers can even offer to post discussion questions ahead of time, which parents or guardians can talk about with their children before club meetings.
Volunteer programs allow parents and guardians to get more involved in their children’s education and contribute to activities or issues they care about. Schools can get family members more engaged by offering and promoting volunteer opportunities like the following:
While volunteering can be its own reward, parents and guardians appreciate the recognition they receive for giving their time, talents, and other resources. Schools can post pictures of events that involve families, which also make excellent promotional materials for recruiting additional volunteers for the rest of the school year.
Some parents may be interested in taking more active roles in their school communities. For those looking to be involved in decisions that affect their children’s educational experience, participating in a parent-teacher association may be a worthwhile activity—even if they need a nudge from a teacher or administrator. If your school doesn’t have an organization like this, it could be beneficial to form one and initiate an awareness campaign to get interested parents and guardians to join.
Many family members have helpful and constructive feedback to share, but they might not know who to give it to or whether it will be well-received. While the beginning of the school year can be an excellent time to collect feedback to incorporate later on, sending out surveys at regular intervals can also help administrators gather ongoing data and insights into what is or isn’t working.
To encourage input from parents and guardians and help them feel more engaged, consider running surveys asking for feedback on ways your school can improve communication, procedures, programs, and other vital issues. To improve response rates, make surveys as easy to complete as possible—from sending home digital surveys via text message to pre-filling surveys with respondent information.
Highlighting the successes—big and small—of the previous year to help maintain the momentum of family engagement. For example, if your school’s speech team won the state championship last year, celebrating this achievement could help recruit new student members and invite families to support the team. Knowing about high points from the past year can inspire family members to keep traditions alive by volunteering their time or encouraging their children to take more active roles in these activities.
Phone numbers change all the time, and people often stop using certain email addresses. However, updated contact information is necessary for keeping families informed and engaged. Consider sending periodic reminders—through more than one channel—to ask for changes in contact information, including physical addresses.
The new school year is an excellent time to promote the benefits of tutoring, whether in person or online. Encouraging families to take on tutoring at the beginning of the term can help establish good habits, draw attention to setting goals, and build a supportive environment that can sustain a child throughout the year.
If students participate in online tutoring, parents and guardians can also get involved. Because online tutoring can take place at home, adults can join the beginning and end of each tutoring session to stay updated on their child’s goals and progress. Between sessions, being able to communicate directly with their child’s tutor can also help families stay engaged and involved in their learning.
Looking for more tools to help build family engagement at the start of the school year? Learn how Remind Hub and Remind Tutoring can help your district get families involved in supporting student success.