By Teachers, For Teachers
Barriers that prevent parental involvement exist in the school system. Whether they are created by limited resources, cultural or socioeconomic differences, or different perceptions, they are there. As teachers, we understand how essential parental involvement is in a child’s education. In fact, the Harvard Research Project says that when families are involved, there is an increase in the child’s attendance, test scores, self-esteem, behavior, and motivation. When parents are involved in their child’s education they gain a better understanding of what is being taught in school and what their child’s capabilities are. Educators also benefit from parental involvement -- the more that a teacher knows about each students’ life outside of the classroom, the more that they can help them inside of the classroom. However, barriers exist that hinder the relationship between school life and home life. Here we will take a closer look at how to use classroom management to overcome these common barriers that prevent parental involvement in school, so that teachers and their students’ families can create a solid relationship.
One of the many barriers that prevent parental involvement in education is the differences in communication style. This may be due to cultural or religious beliefs, or even socioeconomic status. The best way to break this barrier is to find a way to communicate that will benefit all parties. If the barrier is due to cultural and language differences, then try and use language that parents can understand. Send home messages that are in the native language (you can use an interpreter to help you) and be sure to use sensitivity when communicating. As for cultural differences, keep in mind that different cultures share their space differently, and have rules for touching and eye contact. Be sure to thoroughly research before you communicate to ensure that no one is offended.
When socioeconomic status may be the obstacle, then make sure to be sensitive to the families’ struggles. Watch the words that you choose when communicating, and make sure that you in no way are talking down to the family or making them feel any less valuable then they really are.
Oftentimes the lack of parental involvement may look like it’s because of the family’s circumstances. However, according to research, families of low socioeconomic status with limited resources actually are quite aware of their child’s educational progress, although they may not be actively involved in it. The same research has also showed that although the family may struggle to make ends meet, when the parents did eventually get involved their child’s education, the child’s literacy rate improved. To help break this barrier and improve parental involvement, work around the family’s limited resources. If you see that the child’s nutrition is lacking, then help sign them up for the free breakfast program. Keep in mind that just because they may be lacking financially, that doesn’t mean that they do not want to be involved in their child’s education -- they may just not know how to be involved. Give parents a lot of options on how they can be a part of their child’s education.
Teachers have a lot on their plate, and finding the time to make sure parents are involved in their child’s education may not be on the top of their list. If you want to ensure that parents are involved, then you have to make it a priority. Take the time to create opportunities where parents can come to the classroom and be involved in their child’s education. Be open to the parents’ ideas as well. The more options that you give parents, the more opportunities they will have to become involved.
Teachers may have a misperception about a parents’ ability or lack thereof. Oftentimes, teachers may judge a parent based upon their lack of education or socioeconomic status. Be open-minded and do not judge any parent based on what you “Think” of them. Many parents actually want to support their children, but just do not know how to. It’s up to you to give them the tools to do so. Try learning more about each family and their lives. You may find that some parents’ abilities may be an asset to you.
When parents feel intimated and unwelcomed in their child’s school, that can create a huge barrier between the child’s home life and school life. To ensure that parents and students are comfortable, you need to create a welcoming atmosphere in your classroom. Invite parents to come in for learning centers, classroom parties, field trips, and field days. Open your classroom up to them so they feel as if they are a part of it too. Sometimes parents are the ones that create the barrier, because they had a negative experience when they were in school. To break down this wall, make them feel welcome and show them that their child is not having the same experience as they did.
Breaking the barriers that prevent parental involvement can increase the likelihood that families will indeed become involved in their child’s education. The benefits of parental involvement in a child’s education outweigh the cultural, religious, or socioeconomic status of the family. The more opportunities that we give parents to become involved in education, the more likely the parent will be involved.
How do you use classroom management to overcome these common barriers that lack parental involvement? Do you have tips for teachers? Please share your ideas and experiences in the comment section below. We would love to hear what you have to say.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Skyword. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.