by Terry Heick
School home visits are continuing to see traction in many public school districts as a way to not simply ‘improve relationships with students’ but rather begin the school year ‘on even ground’ with families and communities.
While truly meaningful interactions between schools and communities ideally occurs through curriculum, student projects, and even place-based education, school home visits performed by teachers with open minds and hearts–and a little bit of preparation–can pay huge dividends for the entire school year.
The first time I was asked to perform a home visit, my first response–if I’m being honest–was how much it encroached on my already too-brief summer ‘vacation.’ We had training through mid to late June and were already scheduled for home visits by late July, which left me–according to my calculations–less than four weeks of actual ‘vacation.’
Adding in required PD hours and PGP work–not to mention refinement of my own ELA units and collaboration with other teachers for horizontal and vertical alignment and–well, I’m sure you get it. I was interested in the concept but was concerned about the lack of planning and execution. In short, we were given a long list of names and addresses and wished the best of luck.
Years later, I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences of my teaching career. I’ll talk more about that in another post. Today, I wanted to share a few resources for school home visits for teachers who may be preparing for such an experience. If you’ve done them before, little of what I collected will likely help you. But if you’re new to the idea, below is a decent overview of school home visit resources for teachers.
8 Useful Home Visit Resources For Teachers
1. Home Visit Preparation from Teaching Tolerance
How are you equipping teachers to build relationships with families through visits? Learn the benefits of home visits and best practices for how to prepare for and conduct them.
“When homework assignments and grades are parents’ only insights into academic activities, they miss out on the learning process and have trouble understanding how to best support their child.”
The enclosed report shows how the PTHV model and process of relational home visits builds understanding and trust, reduces anxiety and stress, and fosters positive cross-group interactions between educators and families. Moreover, these relational capacities are critical for identifying and reducing educators’ and families’ implicit biases that too often lead to disconnects, missed opportunities, and discriminatory behaviors in and beyond the classroom. The findings are consistent with what PTHV’s founders intuited at the beginning: when educators and families build mutually respectful and trusting relationships, they become more aware of stereotypes and biases and work toward leaving them behind. As a result, they are both better equipped to support the student’s education. With the help of relational home visits, their common interest—the child’s success—wins out over unconscious assumptions.
5. A guide to home visits from the Michigan State Board of Education and San Francisco Unified School District
(During home visits) avoid:
- Imposing values
- Socializing excessively at the beginning of the visit
- Excluding other members of the family from the visit
- Talking about families in public
- Being the center of attention
6. Project Appleseed: The National Campaign For School Improvement
Project Appleseed is actually an entire model (with paid training but also free tips and resources) for school home visits. There is a lot of useful information here, including tips for a successful school open house after the school home visit.
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5. Research On The Effectiveness Of Home Visits: John Hopkins University study and research summaries on school home visits.
“Sheldon’s research included 12 public elementary schools in Washington, D.C., and more than 4,000 students in the 2013-2014 school year. It found that students whose families received a home visit, one of the core strategies in the Family Engage Partnership program, had 24 percent fewer absences and were more likely to read at or above grade level compared to similar students who did not receive a home visit. Also, students attending schools implementing the program more widely were associated with a greater likelihood of reading at or above grade level.”
“Research, policy, and practice discussions no longer center on if family engagement matters,” said Sheldon, “but on what types of family engagement matter and how families can be supported to play those roles, particularly in an increasingly diverse public school system.”
“Students whose families received home visits were more likely to attend school and to achieve or exceed grade-level reading comprehension than students whose families did not receive a home visit, even after controlling for prior differences in attendance and reading comprehension.”
7. A story on The Power of Home Visits from NPR
Phillips runs a landscaping business and says long days have kept him from being as involved with his daughter’s education as he’d like to be. Seeing this interaction has him a little choked up. “It’s just good to see her grow up and have people around her who care,” he says. “Sometimes parents aren’t there, man. Sometimes we gotta work. Sometimes we’re gone a lot of the time. It’s good to see [teachers] come out to the neighborhood like that. I know she’s in good hands.”
More Tips And Resources For Home Visits By Teachers
School District Guidelines and Training
Most school districts have specific guidelines and protocols for conducting home visits. These guidelines often provide teachers with valuable information on what to expect, how to prepare, and the goals and objectives of the visit. Additionally, some districts offer training sessions or workshops to equip teachers with the necessary skills and strategies for effective home visits.
Parent and Family Engagement Resources
Many organizations and institutions provide resources and materials to support parent and family engagement in education. These resources can include tips on building relationships, fostering communication, and understanding cultural diversity. Examples of such resources include websites, handouts, brochures, and videos specifically designed for educators conducting home visits.
Collaborating with community organizations and resources can enhance the effectiveness of home visits. These partnerships can provide teachers with additional support and connect them with local resources that can be beneficial to families. For example, partnering with community centers, libraries, social service agencies, or non-profit organizations can help address specific needs or challenges faced by families.
Colleague Support and Collaboration
Teachers can benefit from sharing experiences and insights with their colleagues who have conducted home visits in the past. Engaging in discussions, workshops, or professional learning communities focused on home visits can provide valuable advice, strategies, and resources. Colleagues may have recommendations for useful tools, checklists, or questionnaires that can help teachers prepare for and make the most of their home visits.
It is obviously important to follow any guidelines and policies set by your school district and to respect the privacy and cultural norms of the families you visit. Effective communication, active listening, and establishing a positive rapport can go a long way in building strong relationships with students and their families during home visits.