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Parent engagement and two-way communication are critical for a successful school experience in the middle of COVID-19

3 tips to cultivate meaningful parent engagement

Parent engagement and two-way communication are critical for a successful school experience in the middle of COVID-19

With the onset of COVID-19, parents have stepped-up and continued to play an active role in their children’s daily education activities. Teachers, schools, and districts have put their best foot forward to ensure students are learning but still struggle with meaningful parent engagement, which has proven critical to a child’s ongoing success in the classroom.

The best school communities know the importance of giving parents a voice and a seat at the table. Here are three simple ways you can get parents more involved and start cultivating meaningful parent engagement.

1. Shift towards two-way communication

Robo-calls, flyers, and social media announcements have been the go-to for parent communication and parent engagement this year. Districts and schools need to reach many parents quickly and have opted for one-way communication streams. This type of communication has its place and is truly a necessary part of a school’s communication strategy, but this will not help build a sense of school community or connectedness.

A better approach is to shift to two-way communication, which allows parents to engage with the school and have a voice in their child’s education.

Research shows that in a district or school where parents are truly engaged, you are more like to see parents:
● volunteering at their child’s school and school events
● encouraging their child in their academics
● setting educational goals for their child
● asking questions and expressing concerns
● communicating effectively with their child’s teachers
● attending parent/teacher conferences as well as district events
● using their voice to be a partner in their child’s education

Setting up two-way communication should fit the needs and resources of the districts, schools, and classrooms. Many districts and schools are using social media as a communication channel to reach parents and engage in two-way communication.

Another way to open up two-way communication is to have an updated and accessible web page, with school personnel email addresses easily accessible. Then, it’s important to establish a cadence of communication between teachers, parents, and administrators.

2. Implement a well-defined communication strategy

One of the more popular methods for establishing two-way communication between parents and schools has been the establishment of Family Liaison offices. These offices focus on managing communication channels and conversations, taking the pressure off of teachers and other administrators from having to coordinate every minute detail of daily interactions. For smaller districts, the Communications Manager often makes sure stakeholders are communicating and have a voice.

Successfully implementing a program focusing on parent engagement requires everyone to be invested. It is vital to establish a person responsible at the district and school levels who will:

● Create and distribute content that fits the needs of the school’s community
● Coordinate with varying stakeholders to ensure everyone is getting a voice
● Connect school and home with a continuous feedback loop

While the topics and frequency of content may differ at each level, all those involved should be invested, including teachers.

Teachers should feel empowered to open two-way communication channels with parents at the classroom level and invite them to engage. As teachers get more one-on-one time with students, they are often expected to bear most of the communication. District and school administrators can help by giving teachers:
● Opportunities for teachers and parents to connect and discuss the student’s needs
● Encouragement and time to create a classroom parent-engagement plan
● Professional development that includes parent-teacher engagement

With staff buy-in and opportunities to engage with every level of their child’s school community, parents will feel empowered to communicate more frequently and effectively.

3. Use shareable moments to engage meaningfully with parents

One of the most effective ways of building meaningful engagement with parents is to create opportunities where they can see the impact of their child’s education visually. Often, this can take the form of social media posts.

As administrators and teachers, creating an environment ripe with shareable moments is the key to getting parents involved. Here are some out-of-the-box ways :
● Run an event that embodies the culture of the community. Let students research a local celebrity or historical event and let them showcase their findings. Post pictures of student work on parent engagement platforms such as ClassTag.
● Involve another community department in an event, such as the police or fire departments, and have both the organization and the school collaborate in something fun – like a chili cook-off! Have parents and students snap a picture, share, and tag your school or district across social media.
● Participate in Earth Day by planting trees and flowers across school grounds. Post pictures on the school website.
Creating relationships with parents outside of school can help build trust and community. Parents also love the opportunity to share what their child is learning and doing outside the classroom, so it’s a great way to get other members of the community involved as well

Overall, it’s important that parents feel that they have a say in their children’s educational experience. It’s the duty of both the school and district to facilitate opportunities where parents can interact with administrators in a more meaningful way. This will ultimately serve to strengthen the bonds between parents, teachers, and school administrators, creating a learning environment ripe with true engagement.

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