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University of Minnesota Extension

What can parents do to strengthen parent-school connections?

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The start of the school year in the fall marks a new beginning for students and families. Naturally parents start thinking about what they can do to strengthen their children’s learning and development. But parent-school engagement is important all year round. It connects the two important contexts where children grow — home and school.

Through communication across home and school, parents and teachers can share information about children’s progress. They can discuss their needs and interests to find the right opportunities to promote learning experiences. Meaningful conversation between parents and teachers creates mutual understanding. It also enhances both parents’ and children’s experiences with school.

Family-school relationships have been described as a safety net to promote children’s learning and school experiences. Yet, parents differ in their skills, knowledge, resources and available time to support student engagement with school and learning. These differences are why cooperation and shared responsibility between parents and teachers are necessary to foster learning and students’ success in school.

Shared responsibility

How does shared responsibility work? On one side, teachers and schools should:

  • Provide an inviting, supportive climate for parents and families.

  • Examine and update their practices for partnering with parents to ensure children's academic success.

  • Listen and respond to parents thoughts and desires for their children with respect.

Volunteering and more

On the other side, parents’ involvement with their children's school may include fundraising, volunteering or helping in the classroom. But parents can do more to connect to their children’s teachers and school staff in meaningful ways. As parents, you can:

  • Work with teachers to set goals for your children's education. You are a partner with teachers in your children’s education and should work together to achieve mutually agreed-upon goals.

  • Make the first contact with your children’s teachers. Talk with them at the beginning of the school year before you have any concerns about your children’s work. Contact teachers by phone, e-mail or in person. Be respectful and willing to learn what your children do in school.

  • Ask for a language interpreter and/or a cultural guide if you need them. This will help prevent any misunderstandings stemming from cultural differences.

  • Talk with teachers even when things are going well with your children. If there are problems, it is easier to work them out if you already have a relationship with the teacher.

  • Let teachers know about big events in your children's lives. This includes a death or serious illness in the family, divorce or separation, job loss, or reduced income. These events can affect your child’s behavior in school and their ability to learn. Knowing about these big events helps teachers understand behavior changes and provide support.

Always work from the idea that parents and schools both want the best for children. As a parent, praise and thank teachers and school staff for their work when appropriate. Then watch your connection with your children’s school flourish.

Silvia Alvarez de Davila, extension educator in family resiliency

Reviewed in 2018

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