Getting Started Survey (click here)
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Welcoming All Families into the School Community
Families are active participants in the life of the school, and feel welcomed, valued, and connected to each other, to school staff, and to what students are learning and doing in school.
Because schools are all about relationships, the first of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships is about creating a welcoming school community. Interactions among teachers, students, parents and others set the tone for everything else. Parents tell us that being greeted warmly and treated with respect is the number one reason behind their school involvement.
There are two main goals for Welcoming All Families
Creating a welcoming environment:
- When families approach the school building they should feel they belong.
- Are there opportunities for families to develop relationships and communicate with school staff that serve their children?
- Is the atmosphere family-friendly and reflective of the cultures and languages of the community?
- Are there many ways to volunteer and participate in children’s education even for parents who may be working two jobs or who don’t speak English or have a car?
Build a respectful, inclusive school community:
School policies and programs should reflect and respect the diversity of the families in the community.
- Does the school staff work with families to identify and address barriers to involvement (such as differences of income, education, language, and culture)?
- Are events open to the whole family and offered at convenient times and places?
Welcoming All Families in Action
Access the resources below to see how one school created a welcoming atmosphere and what you or your organization can do to get started. (coming soon)
- Establish a team for identifying strengths and needs for the school in practices and policies that create a family-friendly school.
- Use the School Assessment Tool for Welcoming All Families to discuss characteristics of family-friendly schools, assess your school, and plan for action steps.
- Use the Family-Friendly Schools Walkthrough Checklist with the team.
- Survey family members and school staff to determine how family-friendly your school is.
WHAT PARENTS AND PARENT LEADERS CAN DO
- Greet other parents at school activities and events; sit with someone you don’t know and get to know them.
- Recruit bilingual parents to greet and interpret for families whose first language isn’t English. Ask the school district to provide translation headsets for parent meetings.
- Offer family activities at low or no cost so everyone can participate; budget parent group and programs with family engagement requirements funds for this purpose.
- Work to change the conversations going on over the back fence. If people complain about “immigrants” or use ethnic slurs, stay positive and point out the contributions all families can make to the community.
- Hold meetings in a variety of community locations (e.g., the local library, a chapter house, a community center, a church, a local restaurant, to make them accessible to all.
WHAT SCHOOL LEADERS AND STAFF CAN DO
- Work with the school council to develop customer service guidelines to be used by school staff.
- Set up a parent help desk or visitor welcome center outside the school office.
- Conduct meet-and-greet walks in the neighborhoods where students live.
- Use professional development days to address assumptions about families and professional practices in working with families of students in the school community.
- Explore the need for and feasibility of establishing a family resource center in the school.
- Be accessible and available. It’s one thing to say families are welcome and valued, but it’s another thing to show it.
Resources and Tools
This is one family survey example based on the six areas of National Standards for Family-School Partnerships. Use this sample to personalize or modify for your school. For more examples of family surveys, visit: pta.org and (pdf download)
Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships
by Anne T. Henderson, Karen L. Mapp, Vivian R. Johnson, and Don Davies (New York: The New Press, 2007), examines, among other things, how to know whether your school is really open to partnerships (chapter 3) and how to develop trusting relationships (chapter 4). Chapter 4 ends with a checklist for determining how family-friendly your school is.
Family-Friendly Schools Walkthrough Checklist
The checklist is designed to allow schools to assess their “family friendly” practices. This tool gives school leaders the opportunity to evaluate how inviting and “customer friendly” their school is to families and the community. It can also help to point out various areas that may have been previously overlooked and can be easily addressed. (pdf download)
This sample Customer Service Standards are specific for a school setting and include a belief statement, guidelines for communications, Difficult situations, walk-ins and visitors, and colleagues as customers. (coming soon)
More Coming soon:
- Tips for collaborating with the community to ensure family-friendly schools
- Ways to add curb appeal to your school
- Tips and tool for staff development related to customer service
- Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Practices and Policies for family Engagement