When it comes to education, and character education in particular, there are many important key players: teachers, parents, and the community at large. Educating youth is a cooperative endeavor. And when schools, parents, and communities deliberately encourage similar values and goals, the opportunities for student success and growth become unlimited.
During the month of September, our blog will focus on Parent and Community Engagement through Principle 10, “The school engages families and community members as partners in the character-building effort.” This Resource Roundup provides advice, strategies, and resources for strengthening the solidarity between school and community and teachers and parents. These channels of communication are essential and must be utilized for more than ensuring homework gets done on time. Educators and parents need to communicate about what matters, both in terms of the child’s academic and character growth.
The first step in any successful relationship is starting it and “A Dozen Activities to Promote Parent Involvement” is a great place to begin. The most common ice breakers that teachers use are letters and emails at the beginning of the term, which they continue throughout the year. More than merely keeping parents regularly informed concerning classroom happenings, these letters are a great way to communicate your classroom rules, values and norms to your students’ families
Need help getting started? There are plenty of templates available online, or you can easily make one that fits your own unique style.
An important aspect of developing partnerships with parents is being truly empathetic to their needs and schedules. One way to learn more about your students families and how they would be interested in contributing is to send home a survey to parents. This will allow you to gain a better picture of availability and skillsets (arts & crafts vs. literary analysis). With this information, you know which parents can help with particular activities as the need arises.
Getting involved with the community varies; however, service projects, utilizing your PTA/PTO/PTSA helps as well as partnering with organizations like the local library or recreation center.
Activities & Ideas
Once you and the parents decide to take a collaborative approach in enriching the educational process of the students, it helps to have something to actually do. The sky (and probably your budget) is the limit, so creativity helps. When planning events and activities, relevance will always be important, so make sure you ask the questions that count:
Is this important for success in the classroom or character development?
Is this something students and parents will find engaging?
Will the time and effort required for these activities both reasonable and manageable?
That being said, here are some activities that could involve parents in the educational process. We’ve also taken into consideration that parent participation in classroom and school events often declines as children get older, in part, because the nature, structure, and difficulty of school changes as students progress. Because of this, the mentioned activities can easily be adapted for all levels of schooling.
After school events involving the parents can provide additional enrichment or pleasure in the form of the always popular book clubs. This approach promotes a love for reading while providing a natural environment to discuss ethical and moral dilemmas. And of course, you can always browse websites for a catchy name like The Spine Crackers, Fiction Addiction, or Booked for Dinner.
If you’re looking to develop literacy or working with younger children, here’s a list to get you started. It features various children’s stories promoting character traits like respect and courage. And here is another list of books for elementary and some middle school-aged children.
Movie nights followed by a discussion about the film’s core values is also an option with less time commitment.
“Reel Character: Using Film to Enhance Social and Emotional Learning,”is a great place to get started. The author even includes a list with movie suggestions for elementary, middle, and high schools.
Another possible activity is to organize a fun run that gets your students and school and local communities together for a day of fun physical activity. Events can be themed, host different stations, and have food – local organizations should be more than willing to donate, if only for good publicity. These types of events are also a great way to promote student leadership.
Know of other resources related to getting the community and families involved? Post them below in the comments!