I have taken a bit of a break to celebrate my blog's birthday, but I am back and ready to talk some more about how to connect with the families of your students! I hope that you have enjoyed reading about the different ways I connect with my students and their families, and that you have found some useful ideas that you can take and use in your own classroom! So far, I have written about sending student postcards to invite your students to your classroom and about Family Journals. Today, I have a new topic that I want to discuss, and I am sure that it is either a topic that you haven't heard much about, or one that scares you to even think about. I am going to tell you about my experience with Family Visits. This post is a bit long and text heavy, but it has some great information, so I hope you will take the time to read about Family Visits and learn about something that may be new to you! Plus, there is a freebie at the bottom of the post!
If you have never done a Family Visit, then the idea seems daunting, especially if you teach in a low income area, Title 1 school, or your students live in a dangerous area. It seemed scary to me when I was a student teacher and my cooperating teacher told me that she did family visits. Remember when I said in this post that some things I learned during my student teaching experience were downright scary? Well, this was what I was talking about! However, I promise you, it isn't as scary as it seems.
When we started out the school year, one of the things that we sent home on the first few days of school was a letter, inviting the parents to invite us into their home for a Family Visit. These visits were intended to be non-threatening. We weren't going to go to their home to look for anything negative, we were just there to get to know our new students and their family. Out of a class of about 24 students, I believe we received responses from about 10 of them. That doesn't sound like a lot, I realize, but for this school, it was huge!
One way to make the visits non-threatening was to allow the parent the option of meeting somewhere besides their home. Some of the families at my school are homeless, and live in shelters or with other family members. They may feel embarrassed by having their child's teacher visit the home. So the family can choose to have the teacher meet them at a park or restaurant like McDonalds instead.
The visits were short, less than 20 minutes in most cases. The families invited us into their homes, and we met the family members, pets, etc... We talked to the families about what they expected from their child this school year and answered any questions or concerns they had. The students were often eager to show us around their house. We got to see bedrooms, toys, favorite books, and pets. It really helped to get to know the students.
Sometime during the visit, we made sure to take a picture of ourselves with the student. The student got to choose where the picture was taken. Then, we took the pictures to school and created a "Family Visit" book. I, of course, do not have a copy of this book. I wish I did, to share with you! The students were able to write a little bit about their visit with the teacher in their home. Once the other students saw this, they asked their parents if they could have a family visit, and more letters would be returned, requesting a visit!
When I was unable to go with my cooperating teacher due to meetings at my University, she went alone. For some of you, this may not be an option due to reasons I described above, or you may not want to go alone due to fear. (Believe me, I understand!) If that is the case, you can ask a colleague or friend to go with you. Another teacher who is on your grade level team, a school counselor, or another member of the faculty, could go on the visit with you.
We went on our Family Visits after the school year started, but you could also go before school starts as well. I have heard of teachers who send their students postcards greeting them and welcoming them to the class, and assigning a date and time for a Family Visit. Other teachers invite their students to schedule a visit with them before school starts using the postcard as well. I personally feel more comfortable doing Family Visits after school starts, for a number of reasons. Our school system has a high rate of transience, so often the students on our rosters at the beginning of August aren't the students who show up the first day of school. I would also feel uncomfortable assigning a date and time to come to someone's house, as I would feel that I may be inconveniencing them or intruding. I would prefer to be invited into their home. How you do your family visits is up to you, of course! I found this great resource online with some more information about Family Visits.
So you may be wondering, why in the world is she writing about an experience she had when student teaching 7 years ago? Well, I hear that if you state something publicly, the chances of you doing it are higher! I had good intentions of doing Family Visits last year, but grad school sucked up a lot of my time, and I simply didn't have the time to devote to doing Family Visits. My first few years, I was scared and overwhelmed. Those are my excuses. But this year, I have no excuses! This will be my 6th year teaching. I have no grad school classes after school. So, I intend to do Family Visits this year. I will update you on how this whole experience goes!
Here is an example letter you can send home to your students. This one has my name and information on it, but if you click on the picture, it will take you to my Dropbox, where I have an editable PDF for you. I hope you will consider downloading the letter and going to visit your students in their homes!
So would you consider doing Family Visits? Does the idea scare you? Have you done them before? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking!
Don't forget to check out Growing Firsties' Favorite Things Giveaway! She has some great stuff to give away today!!!