Is it time to reconsider parents’ role in teaching and learning in
your space? Parent and family involvement in education can now be
so much more than a phone call, open house, or parent-teacher conference.
In her new book, Hacking Early Learning, Principal of the Year Jessica Cabeen
shares some practical strategies for engaging parents in daily teaching and
learning, using 21-century technology.
See how you can bring parents along for the entire journey in every school
THE HACK: CHANGE THE
CONVERSATION WITH PARENTS
Having your first (or second, or third) child enter the K–12 system
can be a milestone in many ways for families . . . and for teachers
and leaders. Setting the tone for when and how you communicate
and build a mutual relationship goes a long way toward establishing
trust with the stakeholders you will be serving on the journey.
Authentic family engagement is more than a parent night, more
than Dads and Donuts, and if you do it well, it will start well before
students enter the classroom, and leave a lasting memory well after
they leave your school.
How we welcome and end every day with students can also be a
great starting point in building relationships with families. In what
ways are you intentionally taking time to show care, concern, and
empathy for the students in your class? How often are you checking
in with families after a difficult time? When do you recognize that
student who just seems to be doing the right thing every time you
turn around? How do you celebrate every child during the school
year—and make sure that the family hears about it as well?
If you have an opportunity to live where you lead, you have the
bonus of engaging with future, current, and previous families in
your community every day. This is a chance for parents to see that
you are more than a principal, and for you to see how much they
love being parents. Building relationships with families can occur
on Saturdays at the swimming pool during a swim meet, Sundays
at church, or at the library when you check out new books after
school and see former students studying.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TOMORROW
Find the right platform(s). Families these days
receive information in more ways than ever before.
As educators, we must work to find the right fit
for each family, to make sure they are receiving
information in a timely manner. Our school community
recognized early on that parents were
Starting tomorrow, figure out your own process for positive communication.
engaging more with their phones than the school
folder. Armed with that information, we created a
blog that links directly to our Facebook page. That
way, families can see an intro to a subject and click
to go right out to the blog for further information.
We also post pictures of the school day, host
Facebook Live events, and push out reminders on
this social platform. I used Twitter … so
parents can see inside their child’s day. YouTube
has been a great vehicle for pushing out monthly
your stakeholders so that you are choosing
the right tools to reach families, and recognize that
there may be more than one right answer.
Make sure to teach the tool, and then use it!
Teachers use tools like Seesaw, Remind, Facebook,
and Twitter to communicate with their families.
Before posting, they spend time at back-to-school
conferences, demonstrating the tool and helping
families get signed up and logged in. We want to
make communication between home and school
easy, accessible, and supportive for families. I have
even seen teachers highlight the tool during subsequent
parent nights and conferences. But once
families are signed up, use the tool to communicate
early and often. The more you post, the more families
practice using it, and the stronger the bridge
between home and school will become.
What are some communication tools you
can use to communicate? Jot them down—
and then start to figure out how you’ll pull
them into your daily, weekly, and monthly
Reach out the old-fashioned way. One expectation
to maintain is that families receive positive communication
about their child within the first month of
school. Starting the second week of school, armed
with addressed postcards and classroom lists, I sit
in classrooms and look for the good in everyone.
Once I have observed a class, I take the time to
write three to five postcards to specific students
engaged in learning and positive social behaviors,
and/or contributing to class in a specific manner. I
use the class list to keep track of who I sent
cards to, and then move to the next room.
This process takes almost a full thirty days,
but is incredibly worth it! Parents and students are
proud to receive mail from the principal, and it helps
me shift the defined role of what a principal is “supposed”
to do to what our vision of school leadership
is. Plus I get to contribute to the success of our
learners every day!
Starting tomorrow, figure out your own process
for positive communication. Make your way into at
least one class, observe, and decide how
you’re going to give the students—and their
This excerpt from Hacking Early Learning is shared with permission
from Times 10 Publications.
For more episodes of the Hack Learning Podcast, hosted by Mark Barnes,
visit the archive at HackLearningPodcast.com and subscribe to the show.