How Teachers Can Welcome Parental Involvement

September 19, 2023

Andrea Parker, Ed.D.

Ed.D. in Leadership

Photo of parent with child carrying backpack and homework

When you hear about a successful student, many times a parent is actively participating in their education. Parent involvement means accountability, assistance, encouragement and counsel; all of which young people need to solidify a growth mindset. Unfortunately, as a middle school teacher of nearly nineteen years, I’ve noticed that the older students get, the less involved parents become. This is a major challenge for students because their need for parental involvement doesn’t diminish as they grow. It actually increases.

Many educators make phone calls and send letters or emails to get in touch with parents, but oftentimes, there are little or no responses. It’s unlikely that parents are intentionally dropping the ball or dodging the school system as many have multiple children, work long hours or even attend school themselves. Some may be managing an illness or the illness of a loved one. Adulthood, let alone parenting is no easy feat, and teachers must offer compassion and the benefit of the doubt.

So, what can we do? How can we extend grace but still expect parent involvement? I’ve compiled some simple strategies to create a welcome space for parents to actively participate in their student’s education.

Strategy 1: Create and share a calendar.

Helping parents know about events far in advance gives them the opportunity to plan their participation. As soon as the school year starts, have some dates ready to share and post the calendar on the school’s website or send it by email. You can also send a paper copy home with your students at the beginning of every month.

Strategy 2: Create fun after school activities for parents and children.

Last year, my school hosted a piñata workshop after school. Many parents came, and we repeated the event two more times. There were about 100 families total. Not only were the parents and children able to bond, but teachers got a chance to announce volunteer opportunities, report card expectations and update parent contact information.

Strategy 3: Do something for free.

Who doesn’t like to get something for free for attending an event? One way to get more parent buy-in is to include freebies.  If they volunteer, they can get a gift card. If there’s a parent literacy night, offer free refreshments. If your school does a club for parents, include free resources such as books or memberships to websites.

Strategy 4: Don’t forget to say “thank you.”

A “thank you” can go farther than you might think. Take the time to thank a parent for showing up, taking the call, listening, volunteering or understanding. It shows the parent that they’re appreciated and valued. You can be even more personable with a card, phone call or letter.

Strategy 5: Encourage two-way communication.

Educators can’t just be senders, but also receivers.  Parents need multiple ways to contact us when necessary. Have an email ready or create a social media site just for your parents. You can also create a Google voice number or use a texting app such as Remind.

Strategy 6: Meet them where they are.

Parents may live far away from the school or feel intimidated by participating. From my experience, many parents didn’t finish school, don’t know how to help their child with homework or are even triggered by the school building. You can get creative and meet parents at park on a nice day. Having dinner at a local restaurant can also be inviting. Parents might feel like they are in a safe space without the formality of the classroom. Even renting out a room in a library can be helpful.

Parent involvement is the backbone of student success. Educators can’t do it alone, so let’s not neglect the need for parents, nor give up on them. Creating strategies for their involvement is fun, and if we do it with fidelity, they will feel welcome and encouraged to get involved.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of American College of Education.
Andrea Parker, Ed.D.
Andrea Parker, Ed.D., Ed.D. in Leadership

Andrea is a National Board Certified Teacher and has been an educator for the Chicago Public School system since 2004. She currently teaches middle school English language arts.

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