One day I got tired of sending home letters to parents, planning events, buying supplies and getting excited about parent teacher conferences and Nobody would show up. So the following year I thought about our intentions for parent teacher conference days and as a team we did some research and piloted a "Caring Adults Day" for our 75 students. It wasn't a mandate, it was about caring adults helping our inner city students succeed. During the first two weeks of high school we assigned students homework that involved their families,close friends, older siblings or neighbors. We cast the net wider than just their homes.
We wanted a new audience of "caring adults" anyone over 18 who cared about the academic well-being of our students. Each student was required to find someone and get them enrolled in our Caring Adults Day events. I drew up permission forms and planned two thought partner meetings with caring adults in groups of 10. Our agenda included discussions about what academic success looked like to them and to me, we discussed the best place to hold a parent conference, and what form of communication they preferred. The caring adult then wrote a brief goals statement to their student that I placed in their progress folders. Each student received a wonderful surprise when they started putting their progress folders together. The notes were encouraging and they were signed by both the a caring adult and the teacher. At the end of each quarter we reviewed it and determined if they were being successful.
Communication between me and the caring adults picked up so much I developed a hotline in my home where they could call. Emails came in daily and I had a 200 % increase in parental involvement on conference days. They even brought other caring adults for students who didn't have a caring adult to conference on their behalf. This event lead our school psychologist to begin additional research into meeting the non-academic needs of students using unconventional methods such as this. It was a hit with families because the school was now offering ways for them to be successful at conferencing with teachers and their student outside of school. We even set up community conferences away from the school.
Lastly, the entire school moved to report card conferences and invited community volunteers to help us make our students successful. One of the best experiences of my 10 year teaching career in the great city of Baltimore!