Inclusive schools that have maintained success over time have a very important commonality: They engage family members in meaningful school and classroom activities. Family involvement is an important component in nurturing a school environment of acceptance and support.
Family structures in our country and around the world are increasingly diverse. Our students come from immigrant families, adoptive families, single-parent households, blended families and other configurations that encourage us to be open-minded and think creatively about ways to foster positive relationships.
There are several ways to encourage family involvement. If you already have a strong relationship with families in the community, it is important to think about ways to keep them involved.
Some ideas include:
- Try different ways to communicate with family members. Make phone calls, write notes home and use email to convey your message. Keep a log of how each family prefers to communicate.
- Acknowledge that most families are very busy. Keep your meetings/conversations brief and to the point.
- Initiate communication with families for positive reasons. Make sure that each interaction includes some encouraging news about their child.
- Ask parents to be a part of classroom activities that don't involve a lot of preparation. Dropping by the classroom for 20 minutes to read a story may be more enticing to a family member than baking 40 cupcakes.
- Engage families in culturally relevant activities. Many parents, older siblings and grandparents enjoy sharing information about their cultural heritage. Ask them to participate by sharing stories, teaching language skills, cooking or making crafts.
- Empower families by giving them the opportunity to organize and lead an event or activity. Taking full responsibility for a project without receiving orders from the teacher can be a positive experience for family members.
The concept of truly inclusive schools goes far beyond logistics and the use of effective teaching strategies. Family involvement is the key to a successful educational experience for students and the entire school community.