The research is unequivocal: Engaged and involved parents are key to positive outcomes for students. They are also crucial to the success of your school itself when it comes to positive word-of-mouth, volunteering, fundraising, and countless other little things that make a big difference.
But how do you get parents more involved and active at your school? They’re already pushed and pulled in a million different directions (as you undoubtedly are, too) and extremely short on time. How do you get their attention and, even more importantly, their commitment to help? Here are 5 effective strategies:
1. Know thy parents. Too often, independent schools make parents feel like walking checkbooks – and interchangeable walking checkbooks at that! Don’t make this mistake. It takes a little more time to get to know parents as individuals, but doing so will make a massive difference to your efforts at getting them more involved at your school.
2. Take it from the top. Teachers are often the main (or only) point of contact parents have with their children’s schools. While good teacher/parent interactions are important, the most effective parent engagement programs are created from the top down. If you’re a principal or head of school, you may feel you don’t have time to get involved in this arena, but the truth is that you can’t afford not to.
3. Let them in on your vision. As a principal or head of school, you play a big part in getting the word out about your school’s overarching mission and story. You’re probably very accustomed to doing this with your staff, but have you looped parents in as well? Whether it’s via small-group meetings, or a blog you are in charge of maintaining, or special announcements and events throughout the year, figure out how you want to communicate your school’s Big Vision to current and prospective parents. People love being involved in something bigger than themselves.
4. Leverage their strengths. Part of knowing your parents (see #1, above) means knowing what they do for a living, how they spend their leisure time, and what they’re really good at. This lets you custom-tailor your requests to parents in a way that’s good for them and good for your school. That avid marathoner may be the perfect person to help plan a 5K fun-run fundraiser. And the judge may be able to get your eighth graders into the courthouse for a special “behind the scenes” tour.
You never want to make parents feel put-upon – or, worse, like they’re putting in extra unpaid hours at their day job – but a good match between parents and requests from school can result in very productive partnerships that are a good fit on both sides.
5. Thank them. Over and over, in as many ways as you can think of. And, again – see #2, above. Extraordinary parent efforts deserve special, personalized thank-yous from all levels of school administration. This one step alone, when executed well, can skyrocket the level and quality of your parents’ volunteer efforts.
Want more parent engagement ideas?
Click here to download your copy of our exclusive free eBook, 9 Effective Strategies for Parent Engagement at Your School.
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