The first step to increase parent engagement is create a program to get parents into the school. Part two of this series will focus on ways to get parents to come to your parenting program by creating a common theme/motto, reaching out to companies for donations that will be used as giveaways, and picking a curriculum to guide your program.
To create an actual program that carries a common theme or name is important since this will be the guiding force throughout the year. The name for the program I will be implementing is Parent University. This signifies a program that is ongoing and professional in nature. The motto for the program is Learn, Grow, and Support.
After the name and motto were determined reaching out to businesses for donations is necessary (especially when you do not have much money). These donations are used for giveaways throughout each session. I was overwhelmed with the support received. I asked for products that fit in for each of the session topics. In addition to receiving items for giveaways, advertising is an important first step. We began advertising the program early and then sent home registration flyers to every student. Reminder phone calls and letters were also sent home to make sure parents would attend.
Prizes, giveaways, and food are the motivators that were used to begin this program and get parents in the door. After the parents signed up for the program and attended the first session, engagement became my focus. I did not want to stand in front of parents and lecture…..no one would learn from this and a network of support would not be developed. Instead I wanted parents to talk and share, so they could see that other parents have the same struggles that they do at home. In order to achieve this goal, I used a couple decks of playing cards. Every time a parent spoke and participated, they would receive a playing card. At the end of the session, I drew from a fresh deck of cards and if someone had the cards that I drew they would win one of the giveaways. This was the ticket to having some lively and proactive discussions. Parents felt at ease and comfortable to share their experiences.
Finally, having a base curriculum to use helps guide the discussions and learning topics. I used Parents on Board Series by by Michael H. Popkin, Ph.D.; Bettie B. Youngs, Ph.D.; and Jane M. Healy, Ph.D. Classes are divided into three topics: Preparing your Child to Succeed, Encouraging Positive Behavior, and Reinforcing Your Child’s Academic Skills. This curriculum hits on the major topics that I wanted to focus on, and at times, I will add in more information based on parent interest. For example, parents may be more interested in homework policies and the importance of homework, so this could be discussed more by adding up to date research. Additionally parents were given all materials needed to learn. Thanks to Bloom Planners, each parent was given a daily planner. Notebooks, pens, highlighters, and sticky notes were also provided. As well, as the parent book that goes along with the Parents on Board curriculum. For an extra added touch, each parent was also given an apple to remind them they are also teachers.
So in review, the first steps to creating a successful parenting program are:
- Get parents in the door by offering food, prizes, and giveaways
- Create a supportive and engaging atmosphere
- Keep things professional with a curriculum
In our first session, we had some wonderful donations from Blue Sky Planners, Blooms Planners, and Chart and Soul. Since the topics revolved around organization and routine, all these products are perfect to help parents stay organized and create a routine that works for their family. A big thank you goes out to these companies!