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If you have read my recent posts, you know that my school consists of students hailing from all over the world and speak twenty different languages when they go home each night. Almost 40% of those students receive free or reduced lunches each day, ensuring that our staff is constantly looking at the most cost-effective strategies & opportunities to engage our families.
I preface this post by sharing that I am now in my fifth year working in the school as the principal, and some of these goals may have been unrealistic over the first few years due to a variety of reasons. I strongly believe family engagement is something you have to build over time with your stakeholders.
Here are 5 goals I’m setting to strengthen our school’s FACE program.
- Share out the results of the recent Family Engagement Survey solicited by our Family and Community Engagement (FACE) team. Be sure all of our families see the collective results and allow time at the next Web Home & School Meeting to discuss the data collected. If we are a true partnership committed to growing, an open and honest conversation is a necessary for checkpoint for us. (We used Surveymonkey)
- Using the data collected and discussed, I will plan the upcoming Principal’s Reports (at the Web Home & School Meetings) around those areas identified where our parents require further efforts. I’ll be working closely with our FACE team while drafting these mini-chats.
- I’m always concerned about “access.” Korean and Bengali make-up 23% of our students’ spoken languages at home. I plan to return to the Mosque (where we held a private Back to School Night) two years ago, sit down with leadership and propose hosting a Web Home & School Meeting from the mosque ensuring that “access” to the meeting is not an issue since they do have an Internet connection. As for the Korean population, since we haven’t done anything formal in the past, I have an early January calendar appointment to sit down with several Korean parents with the goal of learning more about what their needs are and how we at the school can support them. We already use an interpreting service called Language Line, but this does not help us very much in understanding and responding to diverse cultures.
- Release a mobile version of our Family Engagement Wiki. With 5 billion texts being sent a day and cellphones closing in on 1 per each citizen of our country (.87), our parents are using cellphones to communicate, gather and share information all day long. I’d like to ensure they can access the school throughout the day as necessary again, meeting them where they are. Check out this cool infographic on global cellphone use and more cellphone statistics. Here’s the current draft form of my app I have made free using webmobi. There’s more to do but I’m hoping to get this first version out to my families in the next two weeks.
- The Friday 5 – I have read about other principals (like my Twitter PLN buddy Mr. Wejr) doing this. They randomly call 5 parents each Friday afternoon to inquire about how school is going for they and their children. They ask questions like “How is Johnny doing in school?” “What can we do to help him?” “Do you have all of the resources you need to support his learning at home?” “What is something you wished we did more of?” “What other input do you have for me or my staff?” If we are committed to growing as a parent-teacher team, we can’t be afraid of what we might hear when soliciting feedback. I am working to be more transparent in my own leadership while building that vital trust amongst our parents and school team.
Things to keep in mind as you draft your own goals…
- Know your population and meet them where they are.
- It takes time and buy-in from your stakeholders to build your FACE program.
- How have your eFACE strategies grown as of late? Email distribution lists, websites, wikis, blogs, polleverywhere, home & school web meetings, sharing of photos/videos from school, etc. Have you provided appropriate time and training to staff and parents on how to utilize these tools?