Friday, February 20, 2015

Would you welcome a Home Visit?

Do you trust your child's school?  Do you feel a partnership between family and school?

Ultimately I hope your answer is, yes.  But, I would be surprised if everyone felt this way.  Several years ago when I began in education I noticed a significant trend.  As a teacher I felt much more successful with students if I, "connected" with the family.  It really speaks to the relationship aspect.


Years ago I had a young man in class.  He was all boy!  If I could connect the lesson to something sports related or video games he perked up.  If I didn't, he was completely lost.  After the first four or five weeks I started to really gel with the young man.  He was trying hard and his grades were solid. Most importantly he was a happy young man.  Fall conferences came around and his mom attended. She shared that this was his most successful year since kindergarten.  I was glad he turned things around...but I failed to get into any particulars.

Unfortunately the young man started a downward spiral in December.  I thought it was simply Holiday-itis, but I was vastly wrong.  The new year didn't make things better, in fact it was quite the contrary.  He basically gave up and shut me out.  I called home and had long conversations with mom.  I thought we were on the same page.  Then in March I called after he got into with a younger student in the bathroom.  The mom absolutely lit into me.  She blamed me for the collapse, the depression and his hating school.  She then said, this is his worst year ever!  I was dumbfounded. How did I lose her trust?  Her support?  Where did I fail?

A few days went by and I asked to meet her.  She was still angry, but agreed.  I went with a colleague to her house.  We sat in the living room, for an hour we listened to her story.  We heard about his father walking out.  We heard about the financial struggles.  We saw first hand what life was like.  It was the end of March and I was truly connecting with mom.  I finally saw my student for who he is. I realized school was not a priority and the reasons why were clear.  I realized the lack of a father figure was hurting him.  He needed someone to take the burden off...not put it on.

That was my first home visit.  Years later I still see the mom and she talks to me like a friend.  I believe my willingness to meet her where she was made a major impact.  She knew I was invested.  I just wish I hadn't waited until March.

As I share that story I think of how many of our teachers don't truly understand what their students are going through.  I don't blame the teachers, but knowledge is power.  Just look at this data on parent involvement:

Regardless of family income or background, students with involved parents are more likely to:

- earn higher grades and achieve higher test scores
- have higher attendance rates
- have better social skills
- show improved behavior
- graduate and go on to higher education

What's important for schools to understand is that ALL people bring a history or background to the table.  Educators understand the importance of building relationships and often times one key event can create a bond.  That event could possibly be a Home Visit.

I understand that for many the home is a private place.  Home is where we kick off our shoes and relax.  The last thing we want is to feel forced to tidy up and put on a show.  But speaking from the heart, it isn't about a show.  It's about real life and helping to better understand.  


When I visited my students home in late March I thought it was too late.  What I came to understand was, it's never too late.  The student ended the year on a positive note, but more importantly I was able to take some of the burden off.  I was able to understand, relate and care for him.  I was also able to communicate with his future teachers.  Doing my first Home Visit was nerve wracking and challenging, but I'm glad I did it.

I ask you, would a Home Visit strengthen your relationship with your child's school?


Articles Worth Reading:

Teachers use home visits to connect with students' families

Spotlight on Parental Involvement

Panthers Podcast 12 - Coach DeBacker

Each of Us Holds Value


Videos Worth Watching:

American Kids try different breakfast foods (4 min)




Opening Doors and Hearts (6 min)