Parent involvement in education is a complex task not unlike so many other facets of helping students succeed. If you want to grow the parent involvement program at you school or in your Title I program, you need to be aware of some key mistakes that are commonly made. Some of them are the result of lack of attention, but most are caused by a lack a coordinated plan.
So, here are some reasons your program is not doing very well when it comes to parent involvement in schools.
- Your parents don’t know you or your staff
- Parents won’t willingly become involved in the school unless they know you the principal or your teaching staff. They may feel unwelcome or just uncertain of what the school and its staff is all about. Parents need to know you and your staff and like you as people first, not just those in charge of the school. Go out of your way to meet parents, whether its in the parking lot or on the street, create a positive personal connection. It will pay benefits in greater school involvement.
- Parent don’t like you or your school program
- Some parents may come to the school as a last resort because they have had bad experiences in the past. You may not even be the reason but, we as people, tend to generalize negative experiences to the institution. Make sure that your school is communicating regularly with the parent community through a school newsletter (you do have one, right?), and other channels.
- Parents don’t trust you or your schools staff
- Developing trust with the school community takes time because parents can be distrustful of the school and its staff. The rumor mill goes into high gear every time there is some sort of negative event or incident at the school. Your best defense is to have built strong relationships with parents and community before trouble brews or incidents can be blown way out of proportion by rumors. Strong relationships build positive feelings about you and the staff.
- Only communicating with parents when there is a problem
- Parents will usually become agitated when they receive a call from the school that is not positive. But if you have built up strong partnerships with parents they are much more likely to approach negative issues as a partner with you, working for the achievement of their child.
- Not forming a Parent Action Team
- Using a team approach to parent involvement provides many benefits. A “divide and conquer” approach makes for staff and parent “buy in”. The workload decreases and ideas generated from the group give you a host of great ideas for involving parents in the life of the school.
- Not examining the friendliness of you school
- Taking a look at the school from the parents’ and communities’ perspective is a good way to encourage more parents to come to school. So, pretend that you are a visitor to your school. Take a walk outside and take a look at the signs on the front door. Are they parent-friendly, or are they negative, with warnings that basically scream keep out?
- Not making it easy for parents to become involved in school
- Like all of us, parents lead busy lives. They need a compelling reason to become more involved in school and with their children. Provide a variety of experiences and times that parents can become involved. Offer a range of opportunities from chaperoning a field trip to working in the school office a few hour a week.
When parents know, like and trust the school they will be more inclined to support you and the staff. When they feel that there are valued and respected they will work more closely with the school as a partner in the education of their children.