Sometimes you feel like you’ve heard it all: they have to work, they can’t find a sitter, they already know this information from their older child. It feels like the parents have more excuses than the kids! You send home letters, you prepare for back-to-school night, you prepare conference folders, and still there are some parents you’ve never even met. It’s like the parents don’t even want to be involved in their children’s education.
But what if that isn’t the full story? Whether or not you are able to see it from the outside, the vast majority of parents have at least one thing in common: the desire for their children to be successful. And for that to happen, or at least for them to know that it’s happening, they know they need to engage with you, the teacher.
So if they want to be engaged and you want them to be engaged, where is the disconnect? There are a number of reasons that parents who desire to be actively involved in their children’s education aren’t. Often times, this is when logistics get in the way.
One thing that everyone can relate to is the confines of time. The school day and all of its field trips, performances, and celebrations is only so long and is during the typical workday. Some parents don’t have the luxury of leaving work to attend these events. And after-school events are usually offered for even shorter timeframes, sometimes making it harder to attend if their workday is longer or they have evening or multiple jobs. Even for parents who don’t work, they may have to find a baby-sitter for other children or worry about their behavior if they bring them to the school. So how can you combat this? Help them be engaged when it’s convenient for them by posting pictures to their SchoolCNXT feed. You can also ask them questions and let them know how their child is doing through messaging so that they can respond as soon as possible, even if they don’t have time to check their child’s folder for a physical note that night.
A parent’s perceived inability to communicate may also make them hesitant to come to school. If they aren’t fluent in or comfortable with English, they may not be comfortable with face-to-face communication. They may not know the best way to approach you with a question or to let you know about something that’s going on at home. Communicating digitally may be far more comfortable for them, especially with two-way translation features like those offered in SchoolCNXT. Similarly, parents who are not literate may have difficulty accessing the printed information that is sent home in their children’s backpacks. They, too, will benefit from digital communication because it allows them to take advantage of text-to-speech and dictation features. Together, these mean that a parent who does not speak English or read her primary language can seamlessly engage in two-way dialogue with a teacher through SchoolCNXT messaging! What an incredible way to empower and engage a parent you otherwise would likely never hear from!
Your school or district borders may also make it difficult for a parent to get to you, especially if you are in a district where students do not necessarily go to their neighborhood school, such as districts with choice schools. If you are hosting 20 minute conferences with each student’s family and the family has a two-hour round trip commute to the school, it may not be practical for them to attend. On top of time, some families rely on public transportation and it can be expensive to travel that far, particularly if multiple family members are attending. Try to help parents out by being willing to communicate in non-traditional forms, such as via an app. You will probably find that this helps save you time as well!
While you may feel like you are the only adult in these children’s lives and that you are on this path on your own, chances are that the parents do want to partner with you, you just may not be able to see that. By keeping this in mind and helping parents jump over some of the logistical hurdles, you will most likely be helping yourself, the parents, and ultimately your students.