Like any season in the school year, Spring is an interesting time for teachers to reflect on their family engagement strategies. Most students are testing, preparing for a new grade, gearing up to transition to a new school, and going on outdoor field trips as the weather starts to heat up. During the Spring, teachers and school leaders have the opportunity to partner with families in dynamic ways that may be different from how they partnered with families in the beginning of the school year.
Below, our Family Engagement Coaches share five tips on how teachers and school leaders can use the Springtime season to engage families. They also advise teachers and school leaders to take a step back to assess how family engagement practices are landing with families. Whether this is a point in the school year where teachers feel positive about the relationships they’ve built with all their students’ families or teachers are seeking ways to engage families they haven’t quite connected with yet, there is never a right or wrong time to survey family engagement strategies so students continue to have the support they need at home to excel in the classroom.
Address the Stress
It’s testing season, and this time of year can be very stressful for students. Many state tests, especially in the secondary space, are high stakes – determining a student’s high school eligibility, class placement, etc. When thinking about family engagement over the course of the next few months, make sure you’re helping families navigate the testing season, explaining what assessments are, and talking through why they’re important. Find ways to inform families on the best ways to support their child with test anxiety, test preparation, and goal-setting.
Celebrate Big Wins (and Losses)
Reflect on the quality of family engagement practices. Take some time to think about the relationships you’ve built with families and how you’ve collaborated with them to support their child’s learning. You also want to explore student progress. Since the beginning of the school year, what are the gains that you’ve seen in your students’ academics and how have family engagement strategies contributed to those gains? While reflecting, you may also find that there were strategies that didn’t work or that may need tweaking, and that’s a success too. In this line of work, it’s important to celebrate successes and learn from setbacks. It is how we grow.
Listen to Families
Consider ways to include family voice and perspective. Families have great and deeper insight into the resources and information they need to be their child’s best advocate and supporter. This is the perfect time of the year to assess how your school-based engagement strategies have landed with your families. Facilitating family listening sessions or administering family surveys help schools find out what’s working and what may not be working – all from the lens of the families. The information you gain from these tools help guide next year’s family engagement planning and identify how to better serve your students and their families.
Have Relevant and Timely Ongoing Conversations with Harder-to-Reach Families
This is the time of year to keep the ball rolling and push through to make sure ALL families, 100 percent of them, are being engaged. This season, spend time reaching out to families who have had little-to-no engagements with positive communications about their child’s academic progress. Be intentional about making the conversation timely. For example, as students are gearing up to transition, invite families to meet their child’s teacher for next year.
High-Five a Teacher
Brainstorm positive ways to encourage teachers to reach all families in the remaining months of school. A simple congratulatory email, a personal message from the principal, or a simple “thank you for being persistent reaching out to all families” can motivate teachers. Always remember, proving incentives is fine, but the true reward that is connected to family engagement is student success.