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COVID has made simple and consistent parent-teacher engagement a bit more challenging, but not impossible

4 tips to streamline parent-teacher engagement

COVID has made simple and consistent parent-teacher engagement a bit more challenging, but not impossible--here are some tips

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented its fair share of challenges. It has also brought many new ideas to the table for the field of education. Not only have teachers rewritten history with virtual teaching, virtual engagement and new guidelines for health and safety, but they have risen to the challenge of maintaining communication with parents and guardians. As the principal at Southaven Intermediate School, I have witnessed this daily.

Most recently, we transformed a celebratory student event to make it inclusive and engage families. Here are four tips we considered to streamline parent-teacher engagement.

Tip #1: Send personalized invitations directly to students and guardians

Once every nine weeks, Southaven Intermediate School hosts an Academic Celebration to recognize students’ accomplishments – this year, this event had to be reinvented. Students were invited, but for safety guidelines we were closed to outside visitors. Students who are on the principal’s list, honor roll, or have raised their letter grades are still recognized in an assembly for their hard work, but in a way that’s safer for all involved.

Tip #2: Stay safe, practice social distancing and have fun 

 On Academic Celebration Day, one grade at a time, students filled the gym while socially distancing. Then, it was time to celebrate!  After each student’s name was called and their certificate was presented, each learner stepped into a photo booth, where their picture was taken.

Tip #3: Celebrate students’ achievements virtually with their loved ones

Perhaps the best part of the day was sharing each student’s photo with parents and guardians – made possible through our district’s communication solution, SchoolStatus. Administrators were able to share the pictures through secure one-on-one messages, which parents and guardians appreciated.  

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and incredibly empowering for our staff. Sending and receiving messages in real-time was very effective. At the end of the day, I tallied over 400 one-on-one engagements. By including our school’s parents, despite all odds, we knew we had done exactly what was needed.  

Tip #4: Be inclusive of all learners

It’s important to ensure learners are being celebrated, regardless of where the learning is happening. From the beginning of the pandemic, as the principal at our school, I have insisted that we are proactively engaging our virtual students in addition to those learning in person. Each family chose virtual learning for their student(s), and at no point should they feel like they are not a valued member of our school community. With this in mind, administrators decided to host a drive-through Academic Celebration.

Once again, SchoolStatus and one-on-one messaging was an integral part of our plan. We used the solution’s app to invite students and parents to the drive-through event. Parents, students, grandparents, and more arrived on campus, and you could clearly see the smiles from those driving by – it was so touching.  

Our families truly showed their gratitude to our staff, and in the end, I feel our teachers were touched by this celebration even more than the students.

Let the celebrating continue

As I write this, we are already in the planning stages of our next Academic Celebration. In the end, the pandemic has challenged us to new levels of thinking. But, thankfully, technology and the dedication of administrators, teachers and other staff has enabled us to streamline communication, parent-teacher engagement, and maintain relationships with our school community.

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Laura Ascione

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