The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

Our “parent plan” for next year.

The other night during our #edfocus chat, a key part of our discussion centered on parent and community involvement. As we try to reform our schools we sometimes run into challenges because our classrooms look different from those parents knew when they were students. The consensus of our group on Twitter the other night was that we need an ambitious agenda to engage parents and community members to gain public support for the innovative ideas we have. As I start to plan for our parent offering next year, there are a few ideas I plan to “steal and redesign” to work for our community. In the coming weeks, I will be designing a parent survey to get feedback on the interest level for these ideas to put together a tentative calendar and do the best I can to create more community engagement.

Next year, in addition to fall and spring parent teacher conferences, we are offering:

Curriculum Night: This is a one-time event held in the fall for parents to come and meet their children’s teachers. Our core teaching, as well as our elective teams work together to present for 30 minute sessions.  Held in the evening, this is a required event for our school district.

Invite Your Parent to Lunch Day: Our goal for next year is to hold three of these events (fall, winter, and spring) to simply open our doors for parents to come to school and eat lunch with their children in our cafeteria.

PTO Meetings: This year, we have worked hard to build the foundation of a strong organization that will contribute significantly to our school. While this group does plan events and offerings for students, our monthly meetings will be focused on reporting and talking about what is going on in our school, and how the policies set by our state and school board impact our students.

We are going to send out a survey to gauge interest, then, going to consider offering:

Parent Walk-Throughs: An idea stolen from my “partner” and friend Derek McCoy, I will be inviting parents to sign up to walk around the building with me during a regular day of instruction. I am planning on having 2 parents sign up for each class period, and focusing on a single grade level, spending three to five minutes in classrooms. We’ll walk around for 35 minutes, and then talk for 15 to process what we saw.

A Parent Book Club: Another stolen idea, this time from Will Richardson. We’ll organize a group (hopefully comprised of parents, administrators, and staff), then pick a day and time to meet. We would likely have one in the fall semester, make adjustments, and then run another in the second term. If we use an ASCD title, purchasing the books will be reasonable, and titles such as “Catching Up or Leading the Way” by Zhao or “Weapons of Mass Instruction” by Gatto may get some interesting discussion rolling.

Coffee with the Principals: This idea has been widely used. We could run one after our elementary schools start to accommodate parents with younger children, or could host an event 45 minutes before the school day ends to bring in parents who traditionally pick up their children from schools. These events would not have an agenda, rather, they would just be a chance to come to school and ask question.

Education Evenings: I’m hoping to work with colleagues from the other two middle schools in our district to host three workshops/speakers for parents at a central community location. Perhaps by surveying to see what topics people are interested in, then lining up events, we could host some strong events that would benefit our parents.

I believe that strong ties to our community will do nothing but help our school. In addition to thinking about these offerings to encourage a wide variety of parents and community members to come to our school, we’ll also be looking to expand our web presence to include more social networking sites. For the events we host, we will also be maintaining a database to track attendance, trying to figure out the best days and times to offer events. This information could also lead us to ask for feedback from those who come to events, and to ask those who cannot make it how we could offer something they would be interested in attending.

As always, feedback is welcome.

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14 thoughts on “Our “parent plan” for next year.

  1. Derek McCoy on said:

    This is great! Power of the PLN, better way to share resouces! I’m borrowing your book club and lunch day – great! We changed Curriculum Nights from once a year to once a semester.

    • How was your attendance the second time through? We haven’t run two events simply because we have so many year long courses. In the past, we’ve run an event in the spring where we showcase student work, which I suppose is another option for the future.

  2. Love these ideas and appreciate all the ways you are reaching out to the many schedules parents have. I particularly am interested in the parent walkthroughs. Do you find it is difficult to balance discipline, teacher evaluations, along with the above ideas? How do you keep the visits with parents constructive?

    • Thanks for the comment.

      I’m very fortunate to have an outstanding Assistant Principal who does a lot of the day to day management of our school to allow me to free up time to work with teachers and parents. It is a challenge to balance everything, but it can be done.

      As for keeping it constructive, we strive to stay positive and keep our conversation focused on learning, not on personalities. There may be differing views on strategies, but that kind of divergent thinking is good and a sign of a healthy community.

      I look forward to hearing about your journey to grow the conversation!

  3. This has inspired me to make a parent event list too…thanks….you have some great ideas.

  4. Melanie Midgley on said:

    Great ideas-thanks for sharing! I especially like the walk through and book club ideas. At the moment I’m exploring tools for collaborating and sharing with families…’Lino It’ is fun!

    • Hi There,

      I’d love to know more about how you are using “Lino It,” as well as your list to increase collaboration with parents.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  5. John: great ideas & agenda. You obviously get the importance of the home-school connection in helping our students learn. Your pro-active approach starts discussions in a positive manner, which will make future parent-teacher-administrator discussions more focused & productive. You are building TRUST-and that is the most important 1st step in the journey towards greatness. Good luck!

  6. It was great to see your ideas and plan! I’m working on a project for a graduate class on parent engagement at the elementary level. Have you thught of using SurveyMonkey for your parent survey? Just a thought. Good luck on your plan! It’s great to see this happening at the middle school level!

  7. Great ideas! I’m trying to gather more parent involvement at the high school level. Will definitely use some of activities. I just invited 3o parents from 2 different grade levels for coffe, cake, and conversations with the principal. Hoping for good results.

  8. Hi! My name is Kate and I am a junior at the University of South Alabama in Mobile,AL. I am an Elementary Education major. I am currently in a class, EDM 310, in which we are learning about using technology in the classroom. Our professor, Dr. John Strange, assigns us a blog each week to comment on. I really enjoyed reading your post. I know that parental/community support and involvement is vital to success in the schools. I like your ideas to get people more involved. They are fresh and creative. I have also thought about how a classroom looks very different to a parent then how theirs looked. It even looks different from when I was in grade school. Computers, Smartboards, and in some cases iPads in classrooms definitely provide a different atmosphere. I have loved learning so much about the advances in technology especially in the schools. Thanks for the post and I look forward to keeping up with your blog. Thanks!

  9. Pingback: Happy Social Media Day! « The Principal's Principles

  10. These are really great ways to help parents feel involved in the school community. I particularly like coffee with the principal and the parent book club. Ideas like yours make me wish that I was a principal. Great job!

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