This is the first article in the “Creating the Classroom of Your Dreams” series. This series will uncover a multitude of concepts for teachers to implement that will create a well-functioning, parent-inclusive classroom.
As teachers, we are sometimes eager to do everything ourselves. No one can blame you; you know how you like things to run and how to get it done. However, this can come with the unwarranted feeling of no one being there to help. While you may feel locked alone in a room full of students, your parents are feeling left out on a major portion of their child’s life. Since we all know education is not a one person job – it’s time to get those parents involved!
Consider these ten ideas to get parents more involved and “unlock” that classroom door:
1. Have a “helper bag” in your room prepared with directions and materials for the activities parents will be pulling students for. Once they know the routine, they can walk in, grab the bag, and get to work without interrupting a lesson!
2. Send materials home to be cut out or put together. Due to schedules, some parents can’t make it in during normal school hours but still want to contribute and be part of their child’s class. Make sure they have all the materials needed and a clear deadline with plenty of time to get it done.
3. Take a survey of parents’ cultural identity, job experience, holidays celebrated, etc. and ask them to come in and speak to the class. A craft could come with it if they are really creative!
4. Ask parents to be a secret reader where they can read their favorite childhood book to the class. You could even have them write down a few clues so the students have to guess who will be coming in to read (the child of the parent will really get a kick out of this)!
5. Join in on a class art project. Let your parents come up with an idea or prepare an art project! Or have them come in and assist in the class project if they prefer.
6. Help host a class party. Parents could donate materials or snacks, work a station you’ve prepared, or come with their own craft or activity.
7. Support a Classroom Giving Tree. Decorate a board outside of the classroom of a bare tree. When you need a supply, write it on a paper leaf and staple it to the tree. Parents can take the leaf and purchase the item for the classrooms if they are able to.
8. Observe the classroom. Let them sign up and spend some time in the room observing. This can give them a better understanding of your routine and expectations, as well as have a better idea of what their child is coming home and talking about.
9. Contribute time as a recess helper. Help organize group games, teach a new game, or just monitor the fun!
10. Attend field trips. Whether it’s to a park around the corner or a bus ride away, extra adults are always helpful and needed on these special trips outside of the classroom!
With any group, volunteers can vary year to year. A great way to get a head start on volunteers is to send a survey home at the beginning of the year with a list of your ideas to find out the parents’ comfort levels and availability. Getting parents involved can sometimes feel overwhelming and scary, so start out by trying only an idea or two. Before you know it, having this open door policy will help your relationship with your parents and make the classroom feel more like a community.
Megan Bruen is a mother of three and a kindergarten teacher at Creative Montessori Academy in Southgate, MI. She has been teaching for the last nine years at a variety of grade levels but loves being with the little ones.
“Everything is so fresh and new to them which gives me a blank canvas to work with. It also gives me an opportunity to help the parents have a great first experience with their children in school. The best thing I like about being in the classroom is watching the students learn and grow from the beginning of the school year to the end!”