Parental involvement in school life is very important for the success of students. According to the research, the children whose parents are actively involved in the educational process achieve better results: they get better marks, and are distinguished by their positive behavior, etc. Parental involvement in the educational process enriches the school culture and contributes to its development. Thus, in order to achieve better results teachers need to be interested in active cooperation with the parents.
Collaboration with the parents may be a significant challenge for many teachers, because this requires well-developed communication skills on a teacher’s part, and it takes some time and effort on a parent’s part as well.
Methods of collaboration with parents
Talking about the cooperation with the parents, first of all, we recall the Parents’ meeting at school. This is one of the established forms of relationship with their parents. Parents’ meeting allows the teachers to inform the parents of current school events, upcoming events, and so forth. However, these meeting does not often take place, and therefore, it is not enough for a parent to be maximally informed of his/her child’s achievements, or about news and ongoing processes in the school. Sometimes the reason of parental involvement in school life can be a special occasion, such as an act of violence, absence from lessons, etc. Frequent and consistent communication between the parents and collaborative care with the latter for children's upbringing and education will reduce the risk of such adverse events.
From the very beginning of the school year the teacher must ensure to inform the parents about the topics such as existing rules at school/class, the current expectations towards a learner, student assessment system, the types and frequency of homework, and more. Furthermore, it is also important for teacher to become familiar with the expectations of parents, to learn about the student’s family members’ attitude towards the different aspects of school life. Parents and students need to feel themselves as a part of the school community, where their ideas and opinions are listened to and foreseen as far as possible.
We recommend teachers to always have on hand the parents’ contact information. Today, when the majority of parents are very busy, the telephone communication between teachers and parents is the most effective way of exchanging information.
If the Learning Management System is implemented in school practices, the teacher may have access to student's parent’s contact information. Furthermore, the teacher can use alternative methods of connection, for example, if the Learning Management System has such feature, the teacher may send a e-mail to a student's parent, or leave a message in a student's card.
It would be ideal, if school will hold informational meetings with parents. The subject of such meetings may be the parents' interests; however, the teacher's initiative is no less important. The subject of such meetings might be the methods of detection of signs of violence and reaction against it, the promotion of children's social relationships in school and outside the school, the stimulation of their motivation... Such meetings can be lead by the invited guests (for instance, a psychologist).
Encouragement of parents’ initiatives
The teacher should encourage the parents' initiative to gather and to share their own experiences in between about the challenges and successes in children’s school life.
In Western countries there is a successful practice of involvement of parents in volunteer and other types of social activities, stimulated by the school. Such initiatives will help to enhance the social ties between representatives of the school community, which is a prerequisite to strengthen the school community and to create a healthy climate in school.
In addition to the general meetings, to help in each student's education and development, it is important to have the individual communication with the parents. It is preferable, if the teacher allocates some time each week to meet up with several parent, and to plan these meetings thoroughly in advance. These meetings will help to keep a parent informed in timely manner about the challenges of a pupil. Individual meetings give the opportunities to both – a teacher and a parent, to create a more complete understanding of simulative or obstructive circumstances surrounding the pupil. For example, an intolerant behavior of a student in classroom might be related to a family problem, and vice versa. Furthermore, by the active cooperation of a teacher and a parent a variety of adverse outcomes (problems related to learning, behavior, social relationships, etc.) can be prevented.
It is important for teachers to remember that should not talk to parents just about the problems, but also to focus on a child's strengths, on his/her achievements and successes. For example, if a teacher wants to talk about the deterioration of student's academic success, he/she can also draw the attention to some positive behavior of the same student towards his/her peers; teacher can inform the parent about the peaceful settlement of the conflict with peers, and about the success achieved in other school subjects, etc. According to the psychologists' advice, it is better if a parent will get more positive information about the child, rather than negative. In this case, the parent’s willingness to resolve the situation positively significantly increases.
For the purpose of holding well organized meeting with the parents, a teacher must keep a book for notes, in which he/she will note every issue which had been discussed with each parent at the meeting. The only purpose of the meetings with the parents is not just to keep the parents informed about their children's marks; during such meetings teacher and parents are discussing about the topics such as absence from lessons, unfulfilled tasks, student’s positive behavior, his/her altered behavior, etc. Due to the multitude of issues, it is preferable, if the teacher makes note about the discussed issues, the information provided by the parents and future plans. The information or advice given to parents need to be consistent and in line with reality.
In addition to the scheduled meetings, it is preferable to keep a frequent contact with the parents at a time when they bring the child to school, take the child from there, etc. The teacher’s attention will reinforce the positive relationship between a teacher and a parent.
Starting from the very first day of school year, the teacher should care about creating positive relationships with the parents. It may be difficult to do: in families where parents are employed, they often are left with less time to take active part in school life. It is also possible that due to the socio-economic problems the student’s school life and the process of education may be ignored by the parents. In such cases, the teacher will require more effort arouse the parents’ interest.
If the parents feel that the school freely and fully answers their questions, they will take a more active part in school life. The information about an existing rules and procedures at school should be transparent and available for parents. The teacher should try to create an environment where parents will not feel awkward and be shy to ask the questions.
The modern Learning Management Systems allows the teacher to hold an online discussion with the parents. This can be done with only one parent, or the teacher can also create a discussion page where the parents of all students in a class will take part.
While communicating with the parents, the teachers should take into account the cultural, social, and other characteristics of the student's family. In order to create an effective collaboration, the teacher should be aware of and respect the culture and attitude in different families.
Additionally, it is necessary for teachers and parents to realize their important role in student life, and to facilitate the student's abilities and skills in cooperation with each other. Active cooperation and involvement of parents in their children's educational process helps to improve learning outcomes and to reduce the risk of violent incidents in schools.