There is no doubt among educators that to ensure greater student academic success, we must build trust with families and engage them consistently in their child’s education. Educators have also become very creative in soliciting the attendance of parents at school events and activities in order to build trust, engage, and equip families with practical skills to help their children. We all have reached into our “bag of tricks” and rolled out the red carpet for our families to increase participation and engagement; using food, door prizes, giveaways, awards, kid performances, and many more gimmicks and fanfare to get parents to come to the school and engage with us. But one simple outreach effort often overlooked and even deliberately ignored is the home visit. But a home visit can be just the ticket to build lasting trust, form a solid partnership, and equip families with the tools to help their children be successful.
Have you ever seen the movie; “Dangerous Minds?” Based on a true story, former U.S. Marine, Louanne Johnson turned teacher at a notorious inner city high school, is charged with teaching a class of bright but underachieving and even troubled teens. There is a point in the film where Ms. Johnson decides to make a home visit of two of her students who have recently gotten in trouble and have been suspended. She has trepidations about these home visits and when she arrives at the first family’s home, they too are nervous about the teacher being in their home. However, what begins as uncertainty quickly becomes a great opportunity and building block of trust with not only these two students and their families, but the class learns of her bold actions and gains more respect and trust for her because of the home visits. Even the most difficult student in the class tells Ms. Johnson that what she did (conducting the home visits) was “cool”. Home visits are more than “cool”, they are an essential outreach strategy that all educators should consider adding to their family engagement goals. If you have not seen “Dangerous Minds” (1995), I recommend it!
I also recommend the publication; “Building a High Achieving School 3 C’s to Success”. In this book, many innovative outreach strategies are discussed to help educators build and sustain lasting and trustful family and school partnerships. The book even highlights conducting meaningful home visits and provides a checklist of tips on implementing a successful home visiting program. In writing the book, much research was done on gaining actual case studies involving successful home outreach programs. One such case study highlights the efforts of educators in rural McDowell County, WV Public Schools. Here is an excerpt from their story;
In McDowell County, West Virginia, a small abandoned coal mining community, 47% of students are raised by a grandparent. In an effort to combat this staggering statistics, the school district created the “Second Time Around Club” to educate, equip and empower these grandparents and guardians to navigate the school system and to understand learning expectations for the children in their care.
These club meetings were conducted at the school and on home visits. School policies, strategies, resources, after school programs, upcoming events and community support services were just a few items shared at each club meeting. Meeting families where they are and building a good relationship with them begins in the home. Just as Dorothy quipped; “There is no place like home.”