Building a strong home-to-school partnership with families is important throughout the school year. Students need to have consistent support both in and out of the classroom, and the best way to achieve this is by establishing relationships between the school community and families and students that we support.
I start the year by sending emails to the families and students using our gradebook messaging system. I introduce myself and share my excitement for the new school year, provide some resources that we will use in class, and make sure that families know I am available to support them and my students. Many times I receive an email back right away, and it is great to start forming those connections and learning about my students and their families.
the home-to-school partnership is essential
We want to engage families in the day-to-day learning experiences of their children. Establishing consistent collaboration with families will help us to cultivate an environment for learning at home and at school.
Open communication through a partnership with families also helps both educators and families understand their students better. When parents become more actively engaged in their child’s education, they gain valuable insights into their child’s interests, strengths, and areas in need of further support. They can then share this information with teachers. When families feel valued, they can also reinforce classroom lessons, feel more connected to their child’s learning journey, and help foster a love for learning.
By working together, educators and families will gain a more comprehensive understanding of their student’s progress, enabling them to develop personalized strategies and interventions to help each student succeed. These partnerships also help families to better understand the learning that is happening. In my own classroom, reaching out to families and engaging in conversations has helped me to gain more insight into how I can better meet a student’s specific needs. Being able to exchange ideas with families and support one another as we support the student has been of great benefit for our partnership.
An added benefit is the sense of community and belonging that students will experience as they see the commitment and collaboration between their parents and teachers.
Activities and events to share learning
Many of the events that happen throughout the school year are great opportunities for families to come into the school and see what learning looks like. Schools should host open house events, student grade-level showcases, or even a STEM showcase where students are highlighting their work. Inviting families into the school to learn about different technologies being used, or school activities and enrichment opportunities available, also helps to build the home-to-school partnership.
In my school, families are welcomed at the beginning of the year for an open house. During the open house, families follow their child’s class schedule and get to meet the teachers and see the classrooms their child visits during the day. We also have parent-teacher conference days and have held art exhibitions and STEAM showcase nights to involve families more.
To decide how to best communicate and collaborate with families, I recommend learning about each family’s preferences and specific needs. We want to create a supportive partnership, where communication is ongoing and open, between home and school. We know that there may be challenges that can impede family engagement, including scheduling conflicts that limit parental involvement and lack of access to information needed to support students.
To work through these obstacles, schools can be proactive by first using a survey to learn about each family’s concerns, preferences, and specific needs. The following are some options to provide consistent communication with parents.
Class website or blog: When families know they can look to one centralized location to obtain class updates, ask questions, or read about class events, it provides a more structured framework for engaging families and fosters a greater connection between school and home. There are a variety of options for creating a class website, whether through Google or Wix, or leveraging a tool like Wakelet for sharing resources, videos, and more.
Teachers can record videos of weekly announcements or special events to keep families informed about student learning and experiences. Videos are also a great way to have students share their learning and help foster a supportive connection between home and school. Flip has been a great tool for sharing videos and engaging in discussions.
Messaging tools: Whether through a messaging app or using social media, school leaders and teachers can send messages quickly. This helps reduce potential barriers in communication and family engagement. Using the communication tools available, teachers and families can communicate instantly, privately, and as often as needed throughout the year to fully support students and learning in the classroom and at home. Some of the options include Bloomz, ClassDojo, ParentSquare, and Remind. These facilitate faster communication because they happen in real time, and important information is not lost in an email inbox.
A supportive home-to-school partnership will amplify student achievement and enhance families’ and students’ sense of belonging.