On Parent Engagement

How do we get parents more involved in the education of their children? How do we facilitate a stronger relationship between teachers and parents? These are two questions that need to be addressed as we move forward in this educational revolution.


Creating a nurturing relationship between teachers and parents can be realized when both parties wholeheartedly understand that the student comes first. Yes, it sounds cliché but when teachers have to instruct, manage and negotiate with 30 students on a daily basis, the priority of creating a bridge between teachers and parents gets lost. Ideally, I should have called the parents of each of my 28 students at some point during the first two weeks of school. I should have began to build parent engagement based on fostering a fruitful and empowering relationship that would ultimately benefit each of my students. But I didn’t. The reason I didn’t was because I was busy dealing with creating lesson plans, teaching students and fostering my ideal classroom environment. That was important, but I need to do better – we all need to do better.


Waiting until a student does something they are not supposed to do is the wrong first step in the path to parent engagement. Establishing a relationship, like the ones teachers build with students, should be key to the teaching practice. I commend those teachers who have told me they took time out of their first days to make a connection with parents. We need more teachers that see parent engagement as a necessity.


Creating a relationship with parents is good on two major fronts. Firstly, it effectively fosters parent engagement in students’ learning. Teachers are busy, and many teacher-cynics lump portions of student deficits on parents. “Why aren’t they taught this at home?” is a common statement heard in staffrooms when discussing students who lack either academic fortitude or cultural competency. “We’re here to teach them curriculum, not basic manners and basic common sense” is another overused and empty phrase heard often. This mentality implies that teachers are the only ones busy with educating youth. But we fail to acknowledge that parents are burdened and busy with their own lives. Keeping up with your own child’s scholastic direction is preached more than practiced, indeed.


There are some practical solutions to solving the problem of parent engagement. First, start with establishing time. Whether it is through written correspondence; letters in the agenda or emails, teachers should be diligent in providing time to communicate with parents. Secondly, teachers should take the initiative. Contact parents early in order to establish that “open door” policy with them. This creates an aura that you are available to chat about anything – academics or social issues. Lastly, teachers need to remember that a phone call or an email doesn’t always have to pertain to academics. Talk to parents about things that their child has a knack for. This last one requires teachers to observe students beyond the limiting scope of grades, assignments and assessments. If teachers can see their students as humans, it will go a long way in establishing parent engagement.


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

Matthew R. Morris

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