The idea of an overly-engaged parent in your classroom can bring feelings of anxiety to some teachers. An overly-engaged parent can be defined as one that desires access to the teacher often, whether in forms of communication or collaboration.
From the perspective of a teacher, in order to appease this type of parent, it requires time and energy they don’t have readily available. This is because teachers would have to take time and energy that was reserved for completing daily required duties and re-route it to dealing with parental needs, leaving nothing left for the original tasks. This creates more work, pressure, and overwhelm for the teacher. As a result, they often coin these type of parents as “high maintenance.”
However, an engaged parent is a caring parent. They are interested and invested in their child and want to be in touch with what is happening in your classroom. An overly-engaged parent not only cares deeply for their child’s learning in your classroom, but they also come with additional enthusiasm to help out when needed.
If teachers begin to look at the desire for engagement from parents with a different perspective, their job might just become easier instead of harder. They can begin to utilize this increased engagement as extra hands on deck in the classroom.
Even though engaging with parents takes time and energy away from other required duties as a teacher, in the end, it saves time. When a teacher engages with caring parents, it builds relationships. These relationships build trust. And when a teacher and parent trust one another, they are able to begin to collaborate together towards a common goal: the growth of a child. This partnership allows for classroom tasks to be passed on from the teacher to the parent, relieving stress, work and feelings of overwhelm.
In order for teachers to see and feel the benefit of parental engagement in the classroom, they must follow the three steps below:
Identify Level of Parental Engagement
The first order of business for a teacher is to figure out the level of intended involvement from parents in the classroom.
- Grab a student roster.
- Write parent names next to each student name.
- Send home a survey to determine parent interest in the classroom.
- Collect results and rank parents on a 1-3 scale.
- (1) Uninvolved– An uninvolved parent is one whom is unable to be involved in the classroom for a variety of reasons (ie. not in child’s life, not located in same location as the school, has a consuming work schedule, etc.)
- (2) Involved– An involved parent is one whom is able to be involved in the classroom on a limited basis (ie. flexible work schedule, interest in volunteering, etc.).
- (3) Overly-involved– An overly-involved parent is one whom is readily available to help in the classroom at any moment (ie. works from home or stays at home full-time, interest in volunteering, etc.).
- Place rating on the roster.
- Place parents into groups based on their involvement level.
- Assign tasks to each group.
- Reach out to parents based on the assigned tasks for that group.
Appoint Engaged Parents for Tasks
Once you know the likely level of engagement from each parent, you can begin to implement systems to incorporate them into the classroom in a way that is beneficial and not overwhelming to you as the teacher. With your engaged parents, you know they are easy to get into contact with and are willing to participate when they can. Many times, parents are unsure of how they can even help, so be sure to take the guess work out of the equation and provide options to these parents.
If you know some background on the parent’s lifestyle or likes, you can match your classroom need to their ability or interest. For example, maybe you need to make name tags for your class and you know a parent is artistic, so you can appoint them for the task.
For the parents whom you are unsure of their background but know they want to be (or already are) engaged, appoint all other tasks that they can volunteer for on a monthly or quarterly basis such as:
- Donate necessary items for upcoming lessons or classroom necessities
- Plan class parties
- Plan award ceremonies, spelling bees, and other school-wide events
Delegate Overly-Engaged Parents for Duties
Lastly, it is time to utilize the overly-engaged parents to your advantage. Their excitement and willingness to be involved may at first seem intense and exhausting to deal with, but you can hone that energy so that it is productive for the benefit of your students in the classroom. Now it is a win-win situation. First, parents can have a close touch-point with their child and yourself. Second, you are able to delegate tasks off of your plate such as:
- Prepare lesson materials (print, cut, sort, staple, etc.)
- Update class website
- Take learning-in-action photos
- Organize written communication from home-school into student folders
- Organize classroom areas or material storage
- Make copies
- Take over bus, lunch, or recess duty
- Gather donated items from the community for classroom use
It is possible to have overly-engaged parents involved in the academic life of a child without it becoming a burden on the teacher. In fact, if a teacher follows the three steps listed above, they might just experience the benefits of these additional helping hands in the classroom.
Looking for additional resources for working with parents? Click here.
How do you engage parents in your classroom?