We plan activities for families, but they don't show up. Help!?
This is a common question and believe me, you are not alone in trying to figure this out. Heck, whole books have been written about this subject! (See More Resources for a few I suggest)
But here are some starting (or restarting) points:
1. Do some soul-searching. Why do you want parents to come to the school? Seem like an obvious question? But you need laser like focus on the reason, in order to think creatively about how to achieve that reason. For example, are you trying to help parents be better homework helpers? Well, maybe classroom meetings that are more contextualized would work better than a school-wide “math night.” Be committed to the end goal and flexible on the path you travel.
2. Ask parents the reason they would come in, not why they don’t come in. You do this right? Have you done it lately? Do you act on the information parents give you? Have you advertised the fact that you do? When you ask parents to weigh in, you gotta listen. And I don’t mean the parents that come all the time and hand in every survey. You want to talk to the parents who don’t attend and find out what they might attend and why.
3. Start where you are. C’mon—parents don’t show up for anything? Odds are parents do show up for some school events. So what are those events and how can you make them more effective?
For example, do parents come to registration? Use that as an opportunity to build some relational trust. Provide refreshments. Marshal your staff so that each parent can sit down and have a five-minute informal chat with someone on staff. Do parents come to the winter band concert? Give that a literacy boost by giving every family a free book. Ask a teacher to model two things you might do at home with the book before the concert begins. Think about how you can accomplish the goals you have in #1 with some of the existing parent interactions.
4. Help parents see a compelling reason they should attend. So, as a parent, it seems like most of the meetings I attend have two reasons:
a) The school wants to tell me things I should be doing but I’m not exactly sure how it applies to me.
b) The school wants me to sit and listen to something that I could read in 5 minutes.
Neither one of these are very compelling, frankly, and that makes it hard for me to make the often inconvenient journey to school.
Here is what I find compelling:
a) The school really wants my input and ideas. They will listen to me, individually.
b) I will see something that will make me glad my kids go to this school and inspire to help them learn more.
c) Parenting a student is hard. I will have some of my questions and concerns answered.
Again, this goes back to #2. I think I’m a pretty average parent but the best way to know the reasons that will compel your parents to leave their comfy house is to ask them.
5. Have an event away from the school building. If parent aren’t coming to you, go to them. Host a meeting in a community center, in a local library, even in a neighborhood park. Shake it up a little.
6. Never give up.
Have a question? Ask me!
Did you know I love to work directly with teachers, families, administrators, librarians, dads, students, abuelas, community members, program directors, teachers-in-training and literally everyone else? Talk to me.