By Angelique Kwabenah May 27th, 2014 3:00 PM
Students do better in school and in life when their families are engaged. A strong body of evidence clearly points to the fact that, from birth through adolescence, family engagement contributes to a range of positive student outcomes. Parent engagement looks different depending on the school, but one of the ways that parent engagement is addressed in alternative school settings is through home visits. Home visits can be a valuable way to engage parents in their child’s education, but they sometimes present challenges as well. Keeping in mind this simple “ABC Framework” will help schools to engage parents more effectively and move students to greater levels of academic proficiency.
Accommodate: Being accommodating to parents schedules and needs is critical to fostering a cohesive partnership. When scheduling a home visit, it is advisable to give parents options in terms of a meeting location. For example, our school meets with parents at the Anacostia Library instead of meeting them in the home if that is more convenient or closer to their workplace. Accept that parents may have valid reasons for wanting to meet in an alternate location and be open to that, not oppositional.
Break down: It is also critical to break down any barriers that might prevent a positive meeting experience. Parents may have perceptions about us as teachers and we may have our own personal views about the parents, as well, that could negatively impact a meeting if they are not openly and transparently discussed. Get any pre-conceived notions out in the open and clear the air so that the parameters have been set for both sides to have a positive and productive meeting. Building bridges that can be crossed by everyone will help to establish a more amicable environment in which parents and teachers feel valued and respected.
Collaborate: Collaborating with parents encourages cultural awareness and respect and has been an important aspect of the success of our home visits. Our parents are appreciative of the fact that that they are included in the decision making process, particularly when it relates to developing transition plans for our students that will help to ensure their continued success when they return to the community. Overwhelmingly, the consensus is that parents want their voices heard and that they feel more engaged when we make them an integral part of the planning process and don’t just impose an idea.
Although many challenges may arise when attempting to conduct home visits in an alternative school setting, benefits like increased student achievement, a decrease in student behavior infractions, and a more cohesive home-school partnership make the efforts well worth it in the long run. Students do better in school and in life when their families and schools are working together in work that truly matters.