New Year – New Opportunity

Unsharpened pencils, fingerprint free devices, clean notebooks, perfect crayons, unused erasers, clean desks, new class decorations – ahhh, the sights and smells of a new school year. It’s hard to believe a new one is already upon us. As a parent, I have the typical worries about what new teachers and a new school year will bring. Will the class be a good fit for my child? Will he stay on track in all his subjects? Will he continue to love learning? Will he make new friends? What can I do to make sure all of these things are ok? So many questions at the start of a new year….  It’s a time when parents are eager to begin anew and a perfect opportunity for schools and teachers to set a pattern for engagement that will positively impact campus culture and student achievement. Based on our work with educators around the globe, the LivingTree team has put together a quick list of best practices for building on the positive energy of a new school year. Here’s to taking family engagement to the next level in 2017-18!

  1. Be consistent! – Let families know what method you will be using for the year and stick with it. Communicate regularly for best results.
  2. Establish your class rules for communication – Let families know how to reach you and an expected response time. Most families are fine with not reaching out past a certain of day, waiting for an expected period, or using your preferred medium. They just want to know what to expect and how to engage!
  3. Set your calendar in the first week – include important dates and assignments. – Whew! We’re all busy these days – knowing what’s coming and having reminders if you’re using technology that does that can make the difference in a family checking out vs. being your partner.
  4. Share pictures the first week to build trust / openness – A picture is worth more than 1000 words. Pictures show us that the children are learning and happy. Families see the work you put into developing children and respond positively.
  5. Share pictures of important forms/slips that need to be signed/returned – Want a particular paper form returned quickly? Share a picture of it and let families know why! You’ll be amazed at the responsiveness!
  6. Share positive comments and accomplishments at the end of a good day – Nothing helps students and families more than knowing what’s going well. Students are super proud when families congratulate them for something done at school. The conversation goes from “I did nothing” to “YES! I did that!!!”
  7. Utilize your support resources if you’re having trouble – If you’ve chosen a technology or program for engagement, be sure to familiarize yourself with support resources. At LivingTree, we are available at or to make sure all users are connected and engaging.
  8. Teach your families – Using pbl? Let families know that that means with simple terms…define it, share the benefits, let them know what to expect. Families want to engage, but they don’t want to feel stupid! Helping families understand some of the changes to education methods is exciting. They love to know they’re children are getting a first rate education!
  9. Suggest questions for families to use with their students – Having families reinforce your teaching and stimulate additional conversation creates a true network of learning. We hear from families all the time that they want to help but don’t know where to start or what to ask.
  10.   Tips on helping with homework – Want families to help in certain ways? Let them know. Share web links or videos, give simple suggestions. Taking 5-15 minutes to guide families can make a significant difference in the amount and quality of work completed!

BONUS: Want families to download an app (like LivingTree 🙂), accept an invite, etc? Do a homework pass, free dress day, family recognition wall, or something that pairs students and families in connecting with your classroom. Students will help you connect their families if there’s something fun in it for them! Be sure to follow the consistency and media sharing suggestions to keep them engaged!

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