This year, in partnership with the Flamboyan Foundation, my school, DC Scholars Stanton, set a goal of 200 home visits before our early September deadline. I am proud to say that as a school we surpassed our 200 goal and teachers completed 213 home visits! I believe that the home visit initiative kicked off this summer propelled our school to a great start this school year. Family engagement is higher than ever. Our Back to School Night was filled to capacity, forms are being returned at higher rates, and teacher-parent interactions have increased tremendously. As a teacher, home visits solidified my belief that:
1. Parents need structured ways to be involved
Each parent or grandparent I met wanted to be involved in school. They want to help their children with their homework. Many just did not know how–either their educational level crippled them from assisting at a beneficial level or they forgot how to do the concept. At my school we are implementing Academic Parent Teacher Teams this year. Academic Parent Teacher teams will happen three times this year. At these 1 and half hour meetings, teachers distribute and analyze student and class-wide data, teachers instruct two major learning goals, and parents learn and receive materials of practice activities to do at home. Our first Academic Parent Teacher Team meeting will happen in October. Parents are already excited for it! This is just one way that parents will be involved in school this year.
2. Schools can serve as community hubs
A child’s school should feel welcoming to the community. A parent should not feel as though they do not have anyone to go to when their child is having a problem. Parents should feel like they belong and have a voice. Schools must provide parents with ways to be meaningfully involved through ways that ensure their child’s academic success. At the end of the day, it is the schools responsibility to create the structure for parents to be involved.
Secondly, schools can serve as portals from what is to what is possible. Many parents and grandparents want to expose their children to life beyond their communities. In fact, this exposure is an important aspect of their child’s success. Schools can partner with community organizations and provide opportunities both inside and outside of school that give each child a broaden perspective of the world around them.
3. We must advocate to end poverty
I’ve done home visits in apartments and homeless shelters. No matter where I went I was faced with the daunting reality that Americans should be angered at the high level of poverty in our country. Children should not have to grow up in these types of conditions.
Secondly, the working poor in America was rise up and reclaim their American dream. For too long have the wealthiest people labeled Americans working poor as lazy Americans who deserve the lives they live. That notion is farther from the truth. Each house I went to, parents and grandparents were working or looking for work to make a better life for their family. The problem is that there is a lack of opportunity and resources. We must expand welfare policies that train people to be productive members of society and ensure that the communities they live in are filled with resources that uplift their children.
I challenge schools to encourage their teachers and staff members to conduct home visits prior to and during the school year. Home visits will give teachers more perspective in their scholars home lives as well as connect parents with families prior to the start of school. I would love to hear your plans for implementing home visits or how your school continues to engage families after the initial home visit.