How parent-friendly is your campus?
When I worked on a campus as a teacher and later as an administrator, I was always aware of the fact that each campus usually had some parking area reserved for parents and/or visitors to the campus. Faculty and staff were not allowed to park there. I helped plan parent engagement activities and was involved in making decisions about which rooms would be hospitality rooms, meeting rooms, etc. and where signs should be posted to help direct parents and visitors around the campus.
I also had the opportunity to work for and with a variety of administrators who held varying philosophies and ideas on what parent involvement/engagement was and how to go about fostering and supporting it on our campus.
As a district-level administrator I was responsible for monitoring the work of personnel on many campuses across our district. This required frequent visits to a wide variety of campuses. In those visits I became very aware that not all campuses are created equal when it comes to layout and parking. The varying differences between administrators in their philosophies of and implementation of parent engagement strategies combined with great variety in architecture, layout, and location of campuses creates a great spectrum of accessibility.
In other words—not all schools are equal with regard to being “parent-friendly.”
What do I mean by parent-friendly? I am referring to a campus that visibly and actively welcomes parents (and all visitors) by allocating space for parents, providing strategically placed signage that guides parents & visitors around the campus effectively and efficiently, and encourages parents to become part of the learning environment with a wide variety of volunteer opportunities. Of course, being “parent-friendly” starts with some basics around accessibility and hospitality.
So how parent-friendly is your campus? Here is a short series of questions that I think would be helpful to consider as you assess your own campus:
1. Is there a designated parking area for parents ONLY? Is this parking area clearly marked and sufficiently monitored so that only parents are parking there?
2. Are entrances clearly marked? If you have signs that direct parents and visitors to enter through the “front entrance”—is it obvious where the “front entrance” is located? I’ve been to older campuses that have multiple “front entrances” on different streets—an artifact of remodeling over the decades... Which “front entrance” is the correct “front entrance”? Perhaps you could consider adding arrows and directional information to your signs—instead of saying “front entrance,” perhaps you could say “Please enter through the East Entrance located on Main Street”.
3. Where is parent parking in relation to the “front entrance”?
4. Is the parent parking area protected every day? For example, if you are holding a special event—such as a blood drive or a meeting of district administrators—do you keep the parent parking protected from these other visitors? If not, perhaps you may consider asking the blood center employees to park their vans near the back of the faculty parking area and marking off specific parking spaces in the faculty lot for the district administration visitors.
5. Once inside the building, do you have clear signage directing parents and visitors to the front office for checking in? Are these signs posted in multiple languages to address the needs of your school community?
6. Do you provide maps to parents who may be visiting the campus to meet with a specific teacher or counselor? Do you have student office workers who might serve as guides for parents and visitors?
7. Do you have a community information bulletin board posted in a prominent location near the front office, front entrance, or parent resource center that contains updated information and memos about upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, and school news?
8. Is student work on display for parents and visitors? Is there information posted that clearly explains the purpose of the work, the high standards being met by the work, and the outcomes of student learning?
9. Do you have a parent resource room where parents can learn more about the school, learn more about how to support learning at home, and learn more about how to become more active in the school community?
10. How does your school use technology to engage parents? Do you just have a static school website or do you incorporate the use of blogs, Twitter, email, wikis, Facebook, etc. to engage the parents and the community in the instructional program of the school? Do parents only hear from the school when their child is in trouble or is there consistent, ongoing positive communication between the school and parents/community?
Take some time in the near future to bring together a committee of faculty, parents, students, and administrators to discuss the questions above and to brainstorm ideas for improving the parent-friendly nature of your campus.
If your campus is a strong parent-friendly campus, please share some of your successful strategies and solutions in the comments.
The opinions expressed in LeaderTalk are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.