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When families play an active role in their child’s education, students feel more confident and academic achievement improves on a schoolwide level. By giving families a voice in your school, you can partner with them to help students reach their potential.
Read on to find out what family-teacher partnerships involve and why it is important to build connections between home and school. Then, discover a few strategies for improving family partnerships in your school.
What are Family-Teacher Partnerships?
You may already be familiar with family engagement, or listening to and working with families in the classroom. Welcoming families to school events and into their child’s education is important, but strong family-teacher partnerships go one step further.
Seeing families as partners in education means both working with them as individuals and connecting them with other families so they can participate fully in your school’s community. You provide opportunities to collaborate on school events or work with teachers on their child’s academic goals.
Without giving families space to offer their perspective, educators lose out on their unique insights and knowledge. Families are invaluable to their child’s academic growth, as well as to the school community. Making goals for an individual child, class, or whole school can be more effective when families are partners in designing and implementing the solutions.
Why Family-Teacher Connections Matter
Family partnerships are one of the most effective steps you can take as an educator to create a strong learning environment in your school. In addition to academic achievement, the benefits of family partnerships also extend to a student’s social and emotional growth.
When their families are involved in the classroom, students are more likely to express self-confidence and a motivation to learn. On a schoolwide level, students whose families engage in school and their child’s academic growth are more focused and less likely to need redirection during class.
Each family has unique perspectives and experiences that can enrich your school. When you work with families as partners in their child’s education, you can rely on their expertise as the person who knows their child’s needs better than anyone else. This can help you set academic and behavioral goals that are better tailored to each student’s needs.
Some families may want to engage more with their child’s school but feel unsure if they’re welcome. Actively work to let them know that their contributions are valued and your school will benefit from having the input of both teachers and families.
How to Create Opportunities for Family-Teacher Partnerships
The importance of partnering with families in schools is clear. If this is a new specific directive in your school you may be wondering, where is the best place to start? Here are a few ideas for engaging families as active partners in their child’s education.
Focus On Family Strengths
Every family has unique strengths that can make your school’s learning environment more engaging and welcoming. For example, if you see a family member with strong leadership skills you could gauge their interest and connect them with your school’s parent-teacher organization.
Recognize and Alleviate Barriers to Involvement
Consider what structural and societal barriers might be inhibiting family partnerships. Be mindful of the different backgrounds and experiences of the families in your school, and take steps to make them feel welcome. If needed, connect them to school resources to help remove or reduce barriers that limit their engagement.
Create a Parent-Teacher Organization
Partnerships also include connecting families who are each facing similar challenges so they can work together on the issues that matter to them. Instead of using your school’s parent-teacher association as a group that just “helps” with administrative projects, give families opportunities to weigh in on school events or issues. Families, teachers, and administrators can work together to solve school issues.
Begin to Communicate and Collaborate Early in the School Year
Advise teachers to schedule a meeting with each family as early as possible in the school year, whether in-person or virtually. They can discuss each family’s goals for their child’s education this year and how they would like to be involved in school.
“[Back-to-school season] is a great opportunity to gather information so that you, as their teacher, can be more supportive, instead of guessing and planning parent nights and activities for the year without knowing your parents,” explains Candra Morris, Vice President of Professional Learning at Waterford.org, in her book Why Every Child Needs a Village For Academic Success.
When you are sensitive to individual factors that may affect their values, goals, and participation methods, you can better connect families with opportunities that fulfill these goals. For example, as part of their communication strategy teachers could offer virtual meetings for families that want to talk more regularly but can’t physically make it to the classroom. Family-teacher communication apps can also provide opportunities to ask questions and give updates.
Click here for more ideas on how to build family and community engagement in your school, from homework and after-school clubs to onsite family resource centers and more. You can also read the following Waterford ebooks for research-based family engagement strategies from the experts:
- Partnering for Student Success: Family Engagement Strategies for Early Education Leaders
- The CARES Framework for Building Family Engagement: A Guide for Early Education Leaders
1. Wairimu, M.J., Macharia, S.M., and Muiru, A. “An Analysis of Parental Involvement and Self-Esteem on Secondary School Students in Kieni West Sub-County, Nyeri County, Kenya.” Journal of Education and Practice, November 2016, 7, pp. 82-98.
2. Nokali, N.E.E., Bachman, H.J., and Vortrubaa-Drzal, E. “Parent Involvement and Children’s Academic and Social Development in Elementary School.” Child Development, 2010, 81(3), pp. 988-1005.