Tuesday June 30, 2015

The Importance of Family Engagement

Family engagement is a very important topic within Catholic Education. Teaching students in Catholic schools about faith and working to help them to grow in their faith cannot be fulfilled in the classroom alone. Because the values of the family are the foundation to a child’s faith, there needs to be unity between the classroom (the teacher) and the household (the parents). In his article, “A Surefire Way to Effectively Communicate with Parents”, Jared Dees describes this bond and gives helpful tips in order for teachers to actively engage with the parents of their students.

The author starts out by saying that making a profound impact on the faith of our students starts with a connection to their parents – to the ones who have influence over them and who helped to build up their faith lives in the first place. He says, “In order to really make an impact on the faith lives of our students, we have to be intentional about building bridges between us as religious educator and our students’ parents”. Christ-centered relationships with the students’ parents will allow for a united source of spiritual influence for the students. The fact is that children, just like adults, are not simply influenced by one source. But, students do spend the majority of their childhood either at home or at school so the influence that teachers and parents have is certainly profound.

In the article, Jared Dees says that in order to engage with the family you must make a commitment by making it a habit to communicate with parents on a regular basis. The author points out that giving the parents a simple compliment will make all the difference because parents are only used to getting contacted by teachers about negative things relating to their child. This teacher says that “…it was the spark [they] needed to get real conversations going before or after class”. These real conversations will build a connection between the teacher and the parents that can lead to a deeper connection that involves Christ too.

Four simple steps are given in the article to effectively communicate with parents. First, it is important to actually schedule time in your calendar to communicate with parents. This will help with time management and make it a real commitment. Second, start by contacting one set of parents at a time. You don’t have to jump right into it trying to send a compliment to every parent in the same day. Communicate with one child’s parents per week and then begin to increase it if you have time to do so. Third, it is okay to use a script that you already have written out to send to parents but be sure to add specific details related to that parent and their child. Fourth, the author says to tell stories. Parents will enjoy hearing specific stories about their child. The parents aren’t around the child in the classroom so it is important that they have a source that will share the good (and sometimes bad) moments that the child has as they learn and grow.

With the steps that Jared Dees gives, it seems like it would be simple enough but we all know how busy the lives of teachers can become. What is important is that an effort is being made. The love of Christ will shine through in the care that teachers show in engaging with the family. And that is really what matters. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it”. The reason that I am studying to become a theology teacher is because I want to reach out to children with the love of Christ starting when they are young. I fully believe in the potential of children and in the incredible capacity of knowledge that they possess. If we, as teachers and as parents, are able to instill the love of Christ in children at a young age then they will have what they need to fulfill the incredible mission that God has for each and every one of them. 

Written by: Victoria Schoen

Edited by: Susan Ferguson, Barbara Miller, and Regina Lloyd

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