Parents want to be involved in their children’s education. Most of the time, the parents who are not involved have some sort of barrier rather than a lack of desire. Let’s take a look at these barriers to parental engagement and the benefits of fixing them.
3 Barriers to Parental Engagement:
Misperceptions of Parental Abilities
Sometimes this misperception is from the parent, but it is often a misperception on the part of the school or teacher. Parents do not always divulge what they are good at or what they do for a living. Teachers do not always know that they can ask the parent for help in particular subjects or areas. Likewise, parents do not always believe they have anything to offer the class. Lack of parent involvement in education is rarely a lack of desire for parents to be involved. One simple way to address both of these issues is to survey parents early in the year. Ask if they have any hobbies and what they do for a living. These answers may tell you things about them that are invaluable to the classroom. Parent involvement in school can often be solved by getting to know each other. Don’t forget to ask about availability to visit the classroom or chaperone field trips. Many companies pay their employees to volunteer.
Parent-teacher relationships are sometimes tense. This tension is especially present when children have been labeled as “challenges” by previous teachers. Reach out to parents early with positive feedback on their children. This way, when you do need to reach out for something negative, it doesn’t feel like you only think negatively about their child. Also, keep the lines of communication open for all parents. Parent involvement in education is often hindered by feeling that their children are burdens. Some are just intimidated by the teacher. Be open and friendly when speaking with parents. Offer an open-door policy with them as well. Parent involvement can often improve with improved parent-teacher relationships.
Lack of Knowledge
As children grow, parent involvement in school often shrinks. Parents do not know how they can be involved in middle and high school events and classes. Send a newsletter or updates via email and snail mail when possible. While adding snail mail seems archaic to some, it can be challenging to call parents, and some do not have home computers. Reading a flyer or newsletter on a mobile device isn’t always easy. Parents who work evenings and cannot get calls from teachers can stay abreast of classroom needs. Parent involvement increases with contact from the teacher.
Benefits of Parental Engagement
Parent involvement in education is vital to children’s success in the classroom. Children who know that their parents are invested in their futures are often more successful in the classroom. Project Appleseed notes that “A 10% increase in parental participation (a form of social capital) would increase academic achievement far more than a 10% increase in school spending.” While school funding is vital, student achievement is tied to much more than money. Parents influence their children as often as their peers. Don’t sell your parents short. Even those who can’t come into the school are often willing to cut things out for projects or cut pages out of lamination. Parent involvement in schools does not have to be parent involvement in the classroom. It can also mean their involvement in planning, donations, and outside work. These actions show the children that their parents are involved in their classes even if they can’t be present in the room. It also allows parents and teachers to communicate, even if that means a note attached to the project they’re cutting.
Parent involvement is crucial to classroom success. Let’s assume that parents want to be involved. Assuming the positive frees us to look at the barriers to parental engagement and the benefits of fixing them. Don’t be afraid to ask for parent help even if you aren’t sure what they might be able to do. If a parent expresses interest in helping but isn’t sure how they can help, you can offer them several options. You never know what gem is hiding in one of these parents that have never been asked.