No longer reserved for home-schooled or troubled students, home visits are a great way to bridge the gap between parents and educators.
Increasingly, the role of parent engagement in a student’s education is being recognized as vital. While teachers can connect with parents via email, Facebook, on-campus meetings, and during report card distribution, home visits are gaining recognition as valuable tools to create a strong support system for all students. Begin outlining a plan for home visits to create a dynamic of trust and shared responsibility between teachers and parents.
1. Collaborate with Colleagues
Before taking any steps to contact parents or organize home visits, teachers must meet with administration and faculty. The goal of conducting home visits is to establish greater communication, therefore starting with colleagues is the best, most effective method for clearing the path toward understanding and transparency. Prior to planning home visits, the National Education Association (NEA) advises the following:
- half — if not more — of the faculty should be willing
- no member of the staff should be forced to participate or penalized for lack of participation
- teachers should be paid for this time
- everyone should participate in a training program prior to the visit.
2. Introduce Yourself
Parents who recognize the genuine interest teachers have in their lives will be more responsive to home visits. Before reaching out to parents regarding a potential home visit, send an introduction note. In a letter sent via email or with a student, relay interest in collaborating in their child’s future. Outline all methods of keeping in touch: telephone number, email address, and class Facebook page — if applicable. Emphasize that your most important priority is their child’s education and success relies on strong parent-teacher collaboration.
3. Do Your Homework for Home Visits
Prior to meeting with parents, assign a project to students through which they will provide background regarding their families. Suggest that students include information such as whether their family is headed by a single parent, follows a nuclear model, or comprises a large, supportive extended family unit of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. If possible, ask students to identify parent careers, interests, accomplishments, and the types of activities they enjoy most with family members. Pursuing this type of research allows teachers to gain insight into the family environment and provides casual conversation starting points to put everyone at ease when home visits begin.
4. Keep it Comfortable
Parents who don’t understand that home visits have become an opportunity to collaborate with teachers might still believe that educators want to come to their homes to discuss troubled students. Prior to home visits, emphasize that this meeting is not to discuss misbehavior, troubled students, or poor grades, but an opportunity to form a strong parent-teacher relationship that has been founded in trust and mutual respect. NEA suggests teachers conduct home visits in pairs and avoid behavior that could be misinterpreted by parents as an intrusive examination of their families’ lives.
5. Remain Available
Nothing will quickly destroy parents’ confidence in their child’s teacher more than broken promises. Following home visits, remain true to the teacher responsibilities agreed upon in the meeting and respond promptly to parent concerns. If parents are offered email addresses, social media account information, or telephone numbers to keep in touch with teachers, they expect educators to be available by responding to messages within a reasonable amount of time.
Still unsure where to begin? Many resources are now available for teachers who want to incorporate home visits into their teaching methods. Parent Teacher Home Visits trains teachers regarding proper approaches to home visits and provides support. The organization is recognized by the United States Department of Education as a provider of “…high-impact strategy for family engagement.” Throughout the process, keep in mind that greater communication between parents and teachers can help children succeed in the classroom, and home visits are a great way to start.