Reach Every Parent / Sep 05, 2023
International Literacy Day 2023 – Mak...
What books do you read to your class during the first weeks back? Share pictures of your…
You try sending notes and newsletters – parents don’t acknowledge them. You make sure the family knows about the upcoming conferences – they never show up. All your efforts seem to yield exactly zero results. Seeing how it impacts the student is what bothers you the most. As parents never get important information, the student ends up unprepared for special events and misses out. You feel that you’ve tried everything, but you just cannot reach the parents who don’t seem to care.
Most parents do care, but there are many potential reasons they appear not to. These reasons range from the ability to read to simply feeling overwhelmed with school communications. Keep reading and learn how to reach parents who don’t seem to care.
Before you give up on a family and decide to stop trying, take a moment to ask yourself, “why don’t the parents react?” Consider some of the reasons why parents might seem not to care and how you can overcome those issues.
Feel free to save our handy chart for easy reference – and continue reading for in-depth ideas on how to handle each obstacle.
“We send emails and flyers, and parents still don’t seem to know what’s going on!” – Teachers mention this particular issue, again and again. While this is very discouraging, next time you feel ignored by a parent not reacting, you should keep in mind several things.
32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read (as reported by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy). This shocking statistic shows this problem affects 14 percent of the US population and a stunning 21 percent of adults in the U.S. read below a 5th-grade level.
Many parents find their illiteracy embarrassing. Meet parents where they are and offer alternative ways of communication, including:
You’re great at differentiating learning in the classroom, and sometimes families need the same differentiation.
Schools haven’t always been as open to diversity and in tune with individual students’ needs. Many parents still hold on to negative associations from their time as students. They remember the time when a call or a visit from a teacher meant they’d done something wrong. If they experienced bullying or other troubling events at school, they may avoid school events.
Additionally, the idea that parents should be actively involved in the classroom wasn’t as widespread twenty or thirty years ago. Likely, their own parents (your student’s grandparents) weren’t as involved, and the parents don’t fully understand what’s required of them.
There are many ways you can be pro-active in overcoming this obstacle:
Having a positive relationship with parents builds community, but it also helps in case you have to call home for other reasons.
Financial difficulties impact families’ ability to engage in many ways. Many parents work several jobs to make ends meet or have an exhausting commute. Many families still have no internet access.
“The phone numbers of our parents regularly change as they can’t afford to pay their bills each month. We don’t always receive notice when a phone number has changed or if the phone is turned off” – Brittany O’Connell, Kindergarten Teacher
Teachers often think they would know about such problems, but many parents feel ashamed and might even actively conceal their difficult circumstances. As a result, they will make up reasons for not attending or won’t reply altogether.
Here are some ways to help alleviate parent anxiety:
Many parents are just trying to make ends meet but still want to help their children get the best educational opportunity. With compassion, you’ll be able to meet them where they are.
A whopping 21 percent of US residents speak a language other than English at home. Remembering that many students return home to different values, customs, and cultures can help teachers understand some of the communication challenges. The fact that parents aren’t highly involved doesn’t mean they are not supportive.
Bridge the gap between school and home by:
Need some ideas on how to bring home into the classroom? Check out this article: Multicultural Classroom Activities To Involve Parents.
Here is a special story shared by ClassTag’s founder and CEO that was a light bulb moment leading to the creation of ClassTag.
“When my daughter was in preschool she received a lot of communications from her school about what her daughter was learning along with different volunteering opportunities, and events she could attend. However, the messages never quite got to me; the communications never seemed to reach me and not for lack of trying! It all changed one day when my daughter’s teacher asked her to talk for a few minutes after drop-off.
My daughter’s teacher started by saying how well my daughter was doing and asking why I don’t take advantage of the opportunities to volunteer at school. I responded that I was often traveling for work, and it was hard to find the time.
On the second ‘why,’ it became clear that I also find school communications overwhelming and not prioritizing her engagement. Getting deeper into the conversation, I was finding that school communications overwhelming and did not know what to prioritize. Additionally, I didn’t feel that the opportunities offered weren’t relevant or I didn’t have the skillset to help.
As I put it: “between a bake sale and an art project, I am not sure what I can do as a poor baker and only a slightly better artist.”
After talking to my daughter’s teacher, we agreed that the best opportunity to volunteer during the multicultural week, where I could share our family’s traditions and culture. Two things I care deeply about.
As I was decorating Ukrainian wreaths with my daughter’s classmates, my eyes met my daughter’s and I saw an incredible light that I will never forget. My daughter’s classmates asked her how she made the wreaths so well, and she answered: “My mom knows everything!” This was really a turning moment for me; I’ve engaged and volunteered at school events many more times since this story.
And, ultimately it moved me to create ClassTag – so other parents had valuable opportunities to contribute to their child’s education.
The number of kids living in single-parent homes has almost doubled since 1960. Almost 20 million children today grow up in a home where only one parent is present. The challenges of raising a child alone are immense, and single parents still face a lot of judgment instead of much-needed support.
Another powerful example of overcoming a parent’s lack of interest was Carolyn, a 3rd-grade teacher in Texas. Carolyn told us about how she uncovered the real reason why one of the parents in her class, Mary, appeared not to care.
After several months of trying to reach Mary, Carolyn managed to set up a meeting to check in. She admitted that she went into the meeting with many assumptions, but what she found out was eye-opening.
Carolyn noted that it had been hard to get responses from Mary and asked her why. Mary’s response was initially reserved as she explained she was “busy,” but as Carolyn explained that teachers are here to offer support, Mary shared what had been going on in their household.
Her marriage had recently broken down, and her partner wasn’t making things easy. Refusing to support their daughter, Mary was forced to pick up an extra job involving a long and inconvenient commute
In these circumstances, she was focused on “keeping it together” for her child and maintaining a safe and stable home environment. Additionally, because of her new job, attending school events was simply impossible.
After talking with Mary, Carolyn offered to involve a counselor that would talk Mary’s daughter through the transition. They agreed to check-in bi-weekly by phone at a specific time during Mary’s commute.
Needless to say, this was a big breakthrough for all parties involved, and first and foremost, Mary’s daughter and Carolyn’s student, who now had three adults working together to help her succeed.
There are always exceptions, but in many cases, there is a lot to be gained by thinking about parents’ lack of engagement with a fresh dose of compassion. The next time you don’t receive a response you’ve been hoping for, consider possible obstacles rather than chalk them up to apathy. Sometimes taking a moment to reflect and ask “why?” is all it takes to turn a student’s life around.
Want to reach parents who don’t seem to care? ClassTag is a free parent engagement platform that helps you reach EVERY parent.
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