As the end of the year approaches and you feel the relief of being halfway done with the school year, there’s the inevitable end of year party that all students have come to expect. It’s usually a time to hang out, take it easy and celebrate growth and accomplishments. There’s normally a movie involved and even treats. You may include Christmas activities and ‘fun’ learning games. If you’re smart, you turn it into a disguised learning day…but an even smarter you will be enlisting students’ parents or family into this end of year party.
Yes, I’m back on my ‘parents and family in the classroom are important’ soapbox once again! But you need to hear me out on this…I mean I cannot think of a better time and opportunity to bring in the family in an informal setting to make a stronger collaborative connection with them. I’m sure you’re aware of the tons of evidence on the advantages of parental involvement in schools but I also know the circumstances or time doesn’t always allow teachers to take full advantage of these opportunities.
This is why I’m inviting you/pressuring you to make a strong effort to get students’ families into your classroom for the holiday party. Enlist their help in preparation or participating in an activity that involves them. Create a setting for the students and them that feels as comfortable as their living room with lively conversation and authentic interactions that are not within rigid academic parameters.
I don’t want parents into my classroom, they will bug me too much!
If you know a teacher with this mindset, it’s SO important to talk them down. What insecurity is this coming from? Parents asking questions about their child should not be an issue if you’ve set professional expectations into place. Is email your preferred communication avenue? If so, from the beginning there should be expectations set with parents that you are a busy individual and will usually answer emails within x days of receipt and if they have not received a response they should follow up by making an after school visit.
If face to face is preferred, communicate the specific times you are available and stick to those.
Just like with the students, if you provide consistency to the parents, they will learn to respect professional boundaries to make sure they don’t drive you crazy.
My classroom parents are busy and cannot make it to the parties!
While it’s true that some parents cannot adjust their day schedule to accommodate a school party, you may be able to get a large attendance if you announce it way in advance. This gives them time to make arrangements within their work schedule to make an appearance during a specified date and time. Parents can be busy people but if you have established a reliable method of communication with them, they will do what they can. I would recommend you establish an account with Remind.com if you don’t have one already. This will be a powerful way of communicating with parents as it seems everyone nowadays keeps a smart phone in their pocket. This won’t be the solution for everyone but it definitely will help with some of the attendance.
What if they can’t make it at all? Then, host a virtual class party! Provide this as an option for parents on a weeknight or weekend in which you and the families meet up on camera on somewhere like Google Hangouts or Blab to informally chat about vacation plans, etc. Definitely, don’t structure this opportunity as a parent conference, although you could use this forum at a different time for that. Your efforts to meet them where they are will really be noticeable to parents and I assure you they will take notice and become active advocates for what you are doing in the classroom the rest of the year.
I don’t want to be criticized and questioned by parents
I know you’re not an insecure teacher so I don’t want to dwell on this too much. But if you know any teacher with this mentality, remind them of their professional standing and training. Knowledge may be readily available and while a parent may have their own professional specialty, the teacher must present his or herself as the pedagogical facilitator specifically trained and experienced within specific subjects and age groups. If he or she asserts his or herself as the content area expert and displays that confidence, then there’s no reason to have difficulties with parents who simply want to be be involved and ensure their child is getting the best education possible.
My school doesn’t allow parents in my classroom
This can be a touchy issue as you don’t want to be going against your school policies. But at the very least, you can ask about it and find more about their rationale. It’s possible you can address administration concerns and even be able to open the door for other teachers to take advantage of this opportunity for community connection.
I simply don’t want to invite parents in my classroom
Why would you not want to? They are the most important component to having a most effective classroom even if you are a kick-ass master teacher extraordinaire. What you need most is the buy in from the child’s first and most important teacher, his or her parent. If you have their trust, respect and buy in, then you could really have the recipe for the most effective classroom. If all the online evidence and experience can’t convince you, then I don’t know what rabbit I could pull out of my hat to convince you.
So you’re halfway through the school year and hopefully you’ve met many of your professional goals. You now are getting ready to enjoy a few days off with family and friends. Your students are also very excited, too excited to maintain order at times. Hopefully you’ve already assigned parents a side dish to bring to your party and you have a really cool learning activity prepared so you can involve both parents and students. You can end the party an hour or two early so you can enlist them in cleanup so that as soon as the last bell rings, you can grab your stuff and walk out at the same time as the students.
May you have a wonderful break. If you have ideas for parental involvement and/or activities please share with us below. Enjoy!
Oscar Cielos Staton began his teaching career in 1998 while continuing his passion for film production in Texas. He quickly developed an affinity for working with low socioeconomic Hispanic families. “The lives of my students,” he says “very much mirror the life I once had as an immigrant in this country in a public elementary school. Actually, I tell them they are lucky because they have other students similar to them in the same classroom. My experience was that of a true minority in the classroom. Only one other student in my class spoke Spanish!” As a teacher, he established himself as someone in touch with the student experience. Nowadays Oscar continues his educational journey with the Teach Cow Network and his podcast Teachers Talk Live, which brings together teachers from all over the world for talks on K-12 Education.