Reducing Space Between Professional and Home

Teachers interacting with parents in comfortable spaces

Photo of Steve Kutno
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In many places, parents are reluctant to visit schools because they represent large, faceless, policy-driven bureaucracies. Teachers and schools have played with all sorts of models that are meant to make the school/classroom less intimidating and more inviting, often to no avail. When teachers make a point of visiting with each parent/family near the beginning of the year, it helps to reduce anxiety and personalize the experience. These can be done through home visits, community center open-houses, and places of worship. The idea is to help parents/caregivers to connect on a personal level. From there it becomes easier to invite parents into schools and classrooms for more specific conversations.

Share research or student experiences that informed your idea!

Sacramento, CA Priority Schools Williamsburg VA Community Outreach


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Photo of Jessica Lura

I agree that it's important create a space where parents feel comfortable. Do you have any tips to support teachers who've never visited a family in their home before?

Photo of Steve Kutno

Hi Jessica,
In some communities in which I have worked, the first step is to meet in neutral space like community centers, churches/houses of worship, sporting events, etc. The idea is to meet family members in non-threatening environments in which the first conversations are not about the goings on at school or the academic performance of a child. The purpose it to connect on a personal level and to demonstrate deep caring for the development of the child/children.

Photo of Nicole Cummings

eHi Steve,
Wonderful post! My name is Nicole Cummings and I am one of the Teachers Guild Ambassadors. I agree It is vital that we are creating opportunities for these relationships be established at BOY so that we are easing the anxieties that parents might have. In your experiences with the above practices mentioned have you been able to gather feedback from parents about which strategy works best for them? Is this something that can be tied to the planning of engaging parents? Let me know if you have any questions. You can also find me on twitter @ENicolecumm

Photo of Steve Kutno

Hi Nicole,
The focus of my research was to understand the strategies set of identified struggling schools were using to support their students. One part of the project was proactive family outreach. My conversations were limited to the teachers and administrators who participated. Nevertheless, I think as educators we take for granted that we know best how to engage families and other supportive adults. (There are countless pizzas and other assorted foods that went uneaten because educators--myself included--believed feed them and they will come). I think the way to develop models that work towards more meaningful engagement must involve the parents and the community in shaping and co-leading. While it is not directly related to my original post, I think there are ways to share the responsibility with the parents--a distributed model of engagement, if you will. But I want to be cautious about saying more, lest I perpetuate the misconception that I (or any individual) has the right answer.