Over the last few years, the boundaries have blurred between home and school. School has been brought into the home, and home has been brought into the school. We no longer want to just engage with families; we want to partner with them. Our common goal is to ensure their child’s well-being and to provide a path toward lifelong success that is filled with possibilities. We welcome our special guest, Denis Parcells, to talk with us about developing family connections and nurturing a common purpose.
Denis is in his eleventh year as the principal of William C. Jack Elementary School in Glendale, Arizona. He was named the Glendale Elementary District Principal of the Year in 2016 and was awarded the Arizona Rodel Exemplary Principal in 2017.
Denis joins the team to share his strategies for partnering with parents, building trust, and developing communication pathways to create connections that support families throughout their child’s academic career.
Parents are teachers, and home is a child’s first and most important classroom.
Hillary Clinton, Former U.S. Secretary of State
The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:
- Connect Positively With Families (article)
- Create Community and Nurture Connections to Support Social and Emotional Learning (article collection)
- Supporting Families During the Pandemic: Coping With Stress, Anxiety, and Grief (podcast episode)
Building Community and Trust With Your Students’ Families
We start the conversation for today’s episode with a focus on providing clear, consistent, and effective communication for our students’ families. Denis and the team discuss easy-to-implement strategies for engaging parents in their child’s learning process. Denis shares that building community with families isn’t a one-and-done communication at the beginning of the year. We explore techniques to develop two-way communication with parents across diverse modalities that are proactive, authentic to each family’s cultural context, flexible, and consistent.
We highlight the importance of developing a school culture where staff members share gratitude, appreciation, and positive encouragement with families on a daily basis to acknowledge the little moments that mean so much to our students and their parents.
Consider the following family connection ideas to implement at your classroom door, at drop-off and pick-up, and at school events—from the simple daily intention to the long-term community-building strategies:
Simple Daily Strategies
- Lead with good news
- Find a translator
- Develop reassuring routines with students and parents
Thoughtful Communication Techniques
- Remember that your language and choice of words has a powerful impact
- Learn parents’ names
- Declare your intention
- Make a positive phone call home
- Ask questions about the child
- Invite families to share
- Let families know how you can help
- Be very specific
- Thank families
- Share successes often and in multiple ways
- Communicate often and across various modalities (email, written notes, Instagram, TikTok, etc.)
Demystify the Educational System for Families
- Be a broker of resources
- Explain your instructional decisions
- Conduct/send out parent surveys and share results
- Create a social contract with families
- Invite families to participate in some decisions
Nurture Connections Across Families
- Invite families to celebrate
- Connect families with one another through school-sponsored family activities
Extend Your Learning
- 6 Tips for Engaging the Families of English Language Learners (Edutopia)
- 4 Things to Know About Partnering With Families of English Language Learners (National Education Association)
- Helping Young Children and Parents Transition Back to School (CDC)