4 Ways to Start Strong With Families

Build connections early with these back-to-school family engagement strategies.

July 2016, Volume 39, Issue 11

The beginning of the school year is a hectic time for schools. Though work is to be done with teachers, staff, and the school building itself, one of the most important areas for principals is communication with families. Here are four strategies and resources principals can use to boost parent engagement at the beginning of the year.

1. Keep Back to School Night on message.
“Parents will naturally want to talk about their child during Back to School Night, but that isn’t really the purpose of the event. Talking about individual students wastes the time of the other parents and gets the teachers off their message. Instruct teachers in ways to politely suggest parents schedule a conference or connect electronically if they would like to have an in-depth conversation about an individual student.”

—From “Back to School Night Best Practices.” Read more

2. Break the ice with a first day open house.
“Having an open house on the first day would reduce the anxiousness of new students coming to our school and even lessen the apprehension of our returning students as they met their new teacher with their parents. Mom and Dad also would be less anxious when their child starts classes because all the parents’ questions, and the mystery of the first day of school, would be addressed when they attend the open house with their child.”

—From “A New Approach to Easing First-Day Jitters.” Read more

3. Reach out to diverse families.
“It is good to find interpreters for meetings, but real communication starts before the meeting and goes much deeper than translations alone. Begin the year with brief, positive notes home or a quick phone call—keeping it simple so ELL families can understand. Sharing a picture of a child enjoying school is a sure way to build a bond with parents. Invite some more experienced bilingual parents to serve as diversity ambassadors. They can serve as peer supporters and help new families understand about school events, communications, and procedures.”

—From “Connecting With Diverse Families Right from the Start.” Read more

4. Prioritize attendance.
It’s important to emphasize student attendance to parents early on so they can become partners in reducing the absentee rate. This issue of Report to Parents—also available in Spanish—offers families advice on making every school day count: “Know your school’s calendar, and arrange doctor and dentist appointments after school, on weekends, or during holiday breaks, if possible. Resist the urge to schedule vacations when students will miss school. This gives students the impression that school is not a priority.”

—From “Make Every School Day Count: Boost School Attendance” Read more

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