How To: Create Partnerships with Parents and Families
Kit Richert, Ph.D.
Partnering with Families: Why it’s Worth Your Effort
Your student’s family is a huge resource. Taking the time to collaborating with families will make your job easier and increase your student’s chances for success!
Increasing family involvement in a child’s education correlates to grade improvement, attitude improvement, higher test scores, and college enrollment. Because achievement and test scores matter more than ever to students and schools, it is critical to maximize the efforts of your student’s families to help them succeed.
Strong relationships between teachers and families are associated with improved student behavior at school, higher self-esteem, and better school attendance.
Research shows that school policies and teacher practices are more important than race, parental education, and marital status in predicting parent involvement in children’s education.
Things to consider when forming partnerships with families:
• Partnering is reciprocal and involves listening as well as sharing. Partnering is NOT telling someone what to do. Instead, offer your expertise (academics), and encourage them to offer their expertise (knowledge about their child and the family environment) to brainstorm the best strategy to support the student.
• Recognize that family members have had varying educational backgrounds and may not know how to participate in their child’s education. They may be hindered by a their own negative experiences in school, or feel ineffective because they themselves were not good students. Also, if the family is from different cultural or linguistic background than the school’s majority they may feel alienated from the schooling process.
• Realize that family dynamics influence parent’s availability and involvement. Issues such as changing work schedules, transportation, number of children in the household, and custody arrangements may influence the ability for family members to work consistently with their child. Collaboration with parents should account for these dynamics (non-judgmentally) so you can account for the family’s constraints while problem solving for solutions.
• Parent involvement tends to decrease in the higher grades, but the need for parent involvement does not. Teenagers are a vulnerable group as social and developmental changes occur. Older students may not need a parent to do homework with them as younger children may, but they do need guidance and encouragement to maintain good habits, manage increasingly heavy homework loads, and set goals for their future.
10 Tips on How To Form Good Partnerships with Families
1. Let go of judgments and preconceptions about families. Make them your allies. Respect them and stay focused on helping their child.
2. Set an inviting tone during the beginning of the school year. Make contact with families to introduce yourself if they have not tried to meet you on their own accord. Share how important their contributions are and your desire to partner with them over the year! Focus on building good rapport before any problems crop up. This way, the family isn’t meeting you for the first time when you have negative news about their child’s performance.
3. Disseminate information to all families about how to create positive learning environments at home. Scheduling homework times, limiting television, creating a homework space, and a plan for checking homework are examples of things you can help parents learn about. You are the educational expert!
4. Contact the family at the first sign of concern, this shows you care and respect their contribution.
5. Partnerships work when they are sustained. The frequency of communication should depend on the child’s needs, but it is ideal to make personal contact with all families. Make a plan for checking in if necessary. Email, mass email, newsletters, phone calls, and meetings are all effective ways to check in.
6. Ask questions about the family’s expectations for their child, how they presently support their child with schoolwork, and how you and the school can assist them. You may also want to ask if there are any hardships that may be affecting the student emotionally. Ask about the other household responsibilities the student has in addition to school (for example, many children are expected to provide childcare for their siblings).
7. Encourage families to ask you questions about their child or how you run your classroom. Make sure they know how to contact you if they have any questions.
8. Co-create goals together (you may want to include the child in goal setting as well). Include the family in problem solving. Help them create rewards for their child’s improvement, and consequences for failure to improve.
9. Don’t judge the shortcomings of the family’s involvement. Instead stay focused on what will help the student be successful.
10. Encourage parents to collaborate with other families, especially if they have time constraints in helping their own child. See if several students can create a study group.
Sounds like work, but it will make your life and student’s life much better in the long run to make the effort to form and maintain partnerships with families. You will have an army of allies!