SHADY OAK BEST PRACTICES: FAMILY INVOLVEMENT
Another article on “Shady Oak Best Practices,” our favorite approaches to education and why they work. If friends ask why you send your kids to Shady Oak instead of a “regular” school, refer them to this series—and the science backing us up—for starters.
The idea of encouraging parents to get involved at your school may make you shudder if your experience is limited to fending off “helicopter parents.” But family involvement can bring a number of advantages:
- It gives insight into how issues at home may be affecting a child’s performance at
school—and vice versa.
- It gives schools access to parental memories of a variety of schools—and a variety of
- It helps parents and teachers coordinate approaches to help children achieve their
- It keeps students aware that parents’ interest in school goes beyond report cards—and
that teachers are interested in students as individual people.
Here are a few hints for teachers who want to encourage parents to get involved:
Think About People, Not Procedures
In other words, don’t go into parent–teacher conferences with an attitude of, “Our way of doing education is the right way, and I’m here to make sure these people know that.” “These people” presumably have more experience with their children’s temperaments and interests than you do, so listen to parents as much as you talk to them. Understand they have special concerns for their children’s and family’s well-being. Consider their point of view at all times.
Look for Common Ground
Rather than focusing on points of disagreement, pinpoint shared goals: maximizing children’s well-being and self-respect, helping everyone in every classroom acquire useful knowledge, running an efficient classroom without making anyone feel alienated. Remember that you, the parents, and the children are all on the same team working to achieve those goals.
Treat Children as Well as Parents With Respect
This means both to their faces and behind their backs. And if parent or child complains to you about the other, don’t take sides: ask, “Have you discussed that with them? How might you help them understand how you feel?”
In Case of Real Problems
Occasionally, you may run up against a parent who refuses to listen to reason, who is all high-volume demands, who takes their kid’s side no matter what. Or you may have cause to suspect the parent is using drugs or abusing the child.
Report suspicions of genuine abuse to the proper authorities. With parents who are merely unreasonable and obnoxious, your best bet is to remain calm until they run out of steam, and, if that doesn’t work, dismiss them firmly but not angrily. Above all, don’t let the occasional jerk ruin your cooperative attitude. Most parents are on your side, willing to work with the school to ensure the best for their children and others.
At Shady Oak, we emphasize family involvement because it helps parents understand the school’s goals and improves the all-around effectiveness of children’s education.
Science Backs Us Up! Further Resources on the Topic