Explore how e-docs and e-signatures can get parents more engaged in education.
You can increase the chance of student success with greater parental involvement. E-signatures and other digital tools can help make family involvement easier.
Why parental involvement is so important.
In the same way that lower student-teacher ratios are associated with better classroom results, students do better when their parents and communities play an active role in their education. And it’s easier for parents and guardians to stay involved if they know what their child is learning in school.
Make communication easier in a chaotic world.
As the life of every human on the planet shifted in the past few years, old standbys like face-to-face meetings at open houses aren’t always an option when it comes to parent-teacher communication. And yet involvement in a child’s development is no less central to their success in school.
Anything that makes it easier for parents and educators to communicate or work together can be incredibly valuable in their child’s education. Nowadays, with at-home learning complementing in-class education, it’s even more important for educators and institutions to have the right tools to help encourage parental involvement.
Ways you can help foster better parental involvement.
Parental participation isn’t one single thing. There are many ways for parents to be involved and active in their child’s education. According to Joyce Epstein and associates in their book School, Family, and Community Partnerships, community and family involvement in a child’s development is central to their academic success.
Give parents opportunities to get involved.
Curious, knowledge-seeking parents can ultimately raise curious, knowledge-seeking children in the classroom and beyond. As an educator, you know that type of parent-child interaction is key to child development, but busy schedules make it hard for parents to stay informed on everything that goes on in a classroom.
Look for ways to prompt interaction between children and their parents. Sending home curriculum information to keep parents aware of lesson plans is an easy way to keep them looped in. Projects about family history or careers can give parents and their students an opportunity to talk. By supplying information to parents, you increase the chance they can demonstrate curiosity to their children and stay in the conversation.
Invite parents to events and meetings.
While the pandemic changed how all in-person activities occur, it also expanded the many digital ways we all communicate. Each of these avenues is open to educators and can help get parents involved, whether their schedule allows them to go to school or just send an email.
- Create an email newsletter to share regular classroom updates.
- Record student presentations to share after class.
- Set up video conferences with parents.
- Allow parents to sign up to help with in-class activities.
- Invite parents to open houses and create follow-up emails with the open house information for parents that cannot attend.
As any educator knows, teachers can’t run every event by themselves. Here are some other opportunities you can use to get parents involved:
- Field trips
- Track meets or other athletic events
- Career fairs
- Science fairs
- School plays and music recitals
By showing up and being present, parents can help create a school community. When they do, teachers that are ready to engage them and make them feel a part of the educational community can help those efforts turn into more regular involvement.
Use paperwork to keep parents up to date.
Even with video conferencing and other technological advancements in parent-teacher communication, forms and documents are by far the most regular form of interaction many parents will have with their child’s teacher or their school. There’s no shortage of forms that parents will have to read, sign, or initial when it comes to schooling.
Some of these forms have to exist for legal reasons or because of potential liability. If a teacher is taking the class on a field trip, parents need to sign off on it first, for example. Online forms make this kind of involvement easier and quicker, and they also allow more information to be shared.
Send educational reasons behind a field trip along in a PDF with a permission slip. Deliver a summary or a curriculum to coincide with report cards. Because certain forms must be reviewed and signed by parents, they can be the perfect venue to share information and involve parents in aspects of schooling.
Give parents insight to help them be more supportive.
Ask any parent about the response they get when they ask what their children learned at school and they’ll be familiar with the all-too-familiar “Nothing.”
Even parents that want to be involved need help drawing information out of their children, and sharing information on what’s being covered in class can be a great conversation starter. Plus, when educators are in touch with parents, parents are better at supplementing the learning that happens at school. With tools to help communicate more about what students are learning, teachers can give parents insight into a curriculum that they can use at home to start discussions on everything from dinosaurs to algebra.
How the right tools can get — and keep — parents involved.
Keep all communications in one place:
Teachers can take the guesswork out of whether it’s best to call or email with learning management systems. An LMS (learning management system) is a virtual space where teachers can post syllabi, assignments, classroom updates, and other necessary information for their students. They often have apps so parents can access regular updates from anywhere, helping teachers foster ongoing partnerships.
Go digital to meet parents where they are:
With busy schedules to consider on both ends, electronic documents make it easier for both parents and school staff to leave comments, feedback, and questions for each other. While a call or a conversation on the next parent-teacher night is great, open channels that allow for more regular communication can boost parental involvement. Easy ways to review and approve documents (like signing documents on a phone) and intuitive record-keeping of those forms all help with the educational process by ensuring parents can easily be involved anytime, anywhere.
Make sure your message gets through:
Sending paper documents home with students leads to a lot of crumpled forms lost at the bottom of backpacks. Using electronic documents to communicate with parents ensures direct contact. Plus, e-signatures allow teachers and administrators to see when parents receive, read, and acknowledge documents. What’s more, electronic documentation means that parents will always have a copy of their own, so they can see their child’s progress over time.
While these tools won’t turn every parent into a future PTA president, helping teachers keep parents engaged and informed — even in small ways — can help build a school community that does more for each student. And a school in which each student feels even just a little more invested in by parents and teachers is a goal worth striving for.