Engaging families and the local community – notes

On Friday I facilitated a workshop on engaging families and the local community for teachers as part of a Teachers’ Visit Day at Newcastle Uni. (Here’s the PowerPoint I used which includes some useful resources).

There were only 12 of us so it was a great informal chat. When I asked them why they wanted to engage families, this is what they came up with:

  • To improve learning outcomes
  • Students want family members who show they are interested and care about them and what they do at school
  • The value of teaching is increased if families are involved
  • It helps to decrease alienation
  • It helps to increase accountability
  • In improves communication
  • It promotes positive communication
  • Many parents want to be involved but mightn’t know how to
  • To help overcome past negative experiences at school of parents (which can be passed on the students
  • Help improve attendance
  • School can be the one constant in a student’s lives

There were some great examples of how they were engaging families or the community, and there were also a range of ideas for other possibilities. Here are a few of them.

  1. One school rings the families of all Year 7 students in the first four weeks of the school year to see how their child has settled in and to answer any questions. The students were divided amongst all the teachers (regardless of faculty) so each teacher had to ring around six students. It was suggested that it could be helpful to ring them again later in the year.
  2. One school held a business breakfast attended by approximately 40 business people. Great links were built although the challenge was finding the time to follow them all up.
  3. When consulting parents it is important to listen and to act on their priorities. The example was given that if they said that painting the car park was a priority, then PAINT THE CAR PARK! It sends an important message that we are listening to them.
  4. It is important to be approachable and to offer practical support. One teacher spoke about being approached by a parent to reprint an award certificate their child had lost. While this might be a simple thing, the parent had spoken to other teachers who hadn’t done it, and it was important in building relationships.
  5. Teachers being out the front of the school to speak to parents.
  6. Ringing each family in the class once a semester when things have being going well with their child. For a primary teacher this would only be one to two phone calls a week.

During the workshop I mentioned Chris Sarra’s work at Cherbourg School in Queensland. You can read more HERE.

When I asked them what would be useful, they were interested in practical skills for engaging parents. We were going to do a world café but didn’t have time which was unfortunate (there’s more information about world cafés here). Next year I might look at running a workshop on communicating with parents.

If you liked this post you might want to subscribe to the blog (top right-hand corner of the blog),  and you might like to read:

  1. 10 Ways to build school-community partnerships (a video by the Collaborative for Building After-School System)
  2. Making parents feel welcome in schools (includes 12 things to make parents feel welcome at a school and a range of other material)
  3. Building relationship between caravan park (trailer park) residents and school (about a project I was involved in)
  4. School community partnerships (20 elements of best practice in developing school-community partnerships)

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
This entry was posted in Schools, Working with communities and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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