Home visits are ideal occasions to practice two-way sharing of knowledge and power that characterizes non-traditional family engagement. They provide an opportunity not only to ask families to support what happens in the school but also to find out how the school can support what already happens in the home.
There is a variety of online resources supporting home visit planning. This week, we’ll explore some of these resources, but first we want to share some inspiration from participants of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, a Sacramento-based nonprofit aimed at putting parents and teachers on the same team.
In a March 31st article, Danny Rolleri, principal at a Sacramento elementary school participating in the project, explained home visits engage families because instead of revolving around academic achievement, they put first listening and learning about what matters to parents:
[A home visit] isn’t about student performance in the classroom; it isn’t about misbehavior at school – it’s about what hopes and dreams parents have for their kid; it’s about what they do as a family together; it’s a glimpse into the authentic real world that our kids have when they’re not at school, and it’s trying to come from a place that’s connecting and encouraging.
Stephanie Smith, a Sacramento teacher also participating in the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, shared about her commitment to home visits in an article published in the May 2013 edition of Educational Leadership. In the article, Smith asserts, “Teachers need to spend less energy complaining about parents’ lack of involvement – or even brainstorming how we can get parents to step through the school doors. Instead, teachers need to ask themselves when are they going to step though students’ front doors.” She provides the following advice for teachers planning home visits:
- Never go alone. Invite the teacher of your student’s siblings, or other staff members (including translators) to accompany you.
- Ask your principal for training (Parent Teacher Home Visit Project http://www.pthvp.org).
- Bring a gift. Something as small as a baggie of school supplies shows your appreciation and breaks the ice.
- Take copious notes after each visit. Write down information that you learned from the families and keep these notes going after every communication you have with the family. Review these notes before conferences.
- Don’t worry about timing. It’s ideal to get as many home visits done in the fall. This is a time to send out a general request to visit. Then, make phone calls to arrange visits early on with those parents with whom you anticipate needing a strong relationship.
- Don’t worry about the location. Just get yourself off campus and go to a place where the parents feel comfortable: a park, a restaurant, or their front yard.
As you consider and plan your home visits, read some of the inspiring reports of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, and check back here throughout this week for more resources on planning visits to the homes of ELLs.
Also, learn about a framework that supports traditional and non-traditional family engagement: “Partners in Education: A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships” by Karen L. Mapp, EdD and EdD candidate Paul Kuttner of Harvard Graduate School of Education is a publication of the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education.