Toolkit on Teaching for Diversity - How can you reach out to families and communities?
Research shows that parental and community involvement in education is associated with improved student outcomes. This is particularly true for students with diverse backgrounds.
Connecting with families and communities can help students, families, teachers, and school leaders to better understand each other’s perspectives and create a more open, diversity-friendly school environment in which all students have a better chance to succeed.
How to start?
It can be helpful to start by establishing a dedicated group of parents and school staff (teachers and school leaders) to initially steer this type of development and activities and help set objectives at the school level. Ideally, everyone at a school would be involved at some stage.
A good starting point is to assess the diversity of families in your school to the extent possible, including diversity in culture, socio-economic status, language, etc. Knowing more about students’ families and backgrounds can also help teachers to build cultural bridges between classrooms and communities.
A next step is to create a family-friendly policy or mission for the school, to better welcome families into the school. To help make this possible, you can plan regular events to bring families and school staff together.
A further option is to plan events that bring together school faculty and staff with families in informal gatherings. Informal gatherings can help teachers and school leaders make connections and build relationships with families.
The ideal key message for parents is simple:
All parents are welcome at the school and parents are important to the school. Schools and teachers want to work with parents to educate their children.
The goal is to strive to forge partnerships with all families in addition to those that are already the most involved. Creating this type of school environment means taking a close look at the building, atmosphere, policies, and activities of the school, setting specific objectives, and, with parental feedback, making sure all of these aspects are conducive to inclusive involvement and a diversity-friendly school environment.
Other ideas for reaching out to families and communities include:
Adopting formal school- level policies that promote family involvement, including an explicit focus and stated goals on engaging families who reflect the diversity of the student population. School-wide support for family involvement is important in helping diverse families to feel welcome at schools.
Acknowledging both commonalities and differences among students and families. Seeking common ground while acknowledging and respecting differences is essential for everyone involved.
Strengthen school staff’s capacity to work well with families. Few teacher education programmes include guidance on outreach to parents & communities.
Provide supports to help immigrant families understand how schools work and what is expected of both families and students. A lack of knowledge about school policies can hinder diverse families from getting involved. Schools can help orient families and facilitate their involvement. Deliberately targeting all parents by providing literature in parents’ native languages can help to do so.
Make outreach a priority; take the extra steps necessary to make it possible for families to get involved at school, as well as at home. Try to make it as easy as possible for families to get involved by giving them options and getting out into the community.
Recognize that it takes time to build trust. Families may have had frustrating experiences in the past. Services & activities that are relevant to families’ needs can serve as a gateway to other forms of involvement.
Web Resources and Further Reading:
- Diversity: School, Family and Community Connections:
- Family and Community Involvement: Reaching Out to Diverse Populations