The presence of family engagement is highly instrumental in education systems. The levels in which a student’s family is engaged in their curriculum can be directly linked to overall performance. Once families are in the loop and an active member of their child’s educational journey, they’re more in tuned with their child’s potential needs and can help with their experience. Although some families do not necessarily have issues being active in their child’s education, there are very real and present obstacles for some Maine families. This can look like a few different things: language barriers, having to be at work, low socioeconomic status, childcare needs, etc.
To ensure our attempts in widespread family engagement are successful we must acknowledge that all families need different approaches. As the Maine Department of Education, it is difficult to assume there is any one way to reach an audience. When thinking about the audience of the families of our students, we must try even harder to navigate ways to clearly and actively communicate and have a greater understanding. With the diversity present in our school systems now, it is far too easy to let families with different backgrounds fall through the cracks. For example, the newsletter of the week not being translated further isolates a population due to language barriers.
To engage families, we need to:
- Build relationships with students and collaborate with families to support student learning
- Understand your students and their family’s needs
- Create a family night in your school
- Try to accept and/or adapt to cultural norms that are not your own
- Examine existing beliefs and biases about families and view trauma from a family standpoint
- Practice culturally responsive teaching
- Validate your families’ struggles
- Try to keep language open and nonjudgmental
Raising the next generation is a shared responsibility. When families, communities and schools work together, students are more successful and the entire community benefits. For schools and districts across the U.S., family engagement is becoming an integral part of education reform efforts.
Deqa Dhalac MSW, MDP
Family Engagement and Cultural Responsiveness Specialist