The secret guaranteed to reach struggling students

We know this time of year ensuring ALL students stay on top of curriculum is a priority. Last month, we shared 3 stealable ideas showing you how to weave curriculum into fun events families like to participate in.

Today, we’re going to talk about home visits as a great way to build those partnerships and help students stay on top of their studies.

The scenario: A child who never acted out got into trouble one day. He was so “bad” he was sent to the principal’s office. What happened to him? It wasn’t until a noon duty supervisor talked to him that the school found out his beloved dog had died the night before.

We all know our students’ home lives impact their behavior, attendance, and energy at school. Home and school are inevitably intertwined, and sometimes our kids have hard home lives.

BUT, the million dollar question is - As educators, how do we know which aspects of home life are impacting our students? Whether we’re facing a “chronic issue” with a student or a one-time event that needs addressing, building strong, committed partnerships with families is important to everything that’s important to us as educators.

What is a Home Visit and Why Would You Do One?

A home visit is an opportunity for educators and administrators to connect with and get to know parents and students inside their home. While it may seem daunting to visit every single student, setting aside an evening to visit with families who are really struggling can be a powerful and effective tool. The differentiator for home visits is that the educator goes out into the community to where parents are - not requesting parents to come into the school environment like other events and meetings.

For some schools, home visits are foreign and potentially scary. For some schools, they may seem completely impossible. I’ve heard, “H--- no! I’m not going to visit those families,” so many times.

But they can also be the turning point for building trust, empathy, and partnership between you and your students’ families. This is one area where walls between teachers and parents begin to come down.

As a special educator, I was required to meet with families every year and I learned that building tighter bridges with them was the answer to my toughest problems. Problems like kid-on-kid violence and stealing in addition to “regular struggles” with reading and math.

To get us started, I’ll outline two notable examples, and a below is a link to a step-by-step guide to making the most of your home visits.

Two Notable Examples

Example #1 One of the best Principals I ever worked with, Ray Odom of Hamilton High School in Glenn County, CA, went to visit the home of every incoming freshman in his high school. Every year! Every one! He knew all the families, their names, their kids, and if they didn’t speak English, he took a translator with him so they could communicate. Although his school had the lowest income per capita in the county, it also achieved the highest college acceptance rate and earned a Distinguished School status in the state.

But you don’t have to be the head honcho to practice home visits. Home visits are for teachers, too.

Example #2 A 27-year-old elementary teacher who works with us here at FFS, Annie Villanueva of KIPP Charter Schools, also visits the homes of her students. As soon as she gets her class roster, she sets up times to visit each child in their home. In this meeting, she gets to know the family, the child within the family, and they talk about expectations and hopes for the school year. The culture in her classroom and the partnership among her families is extremely strong and her kids achieve.

Are you a teacher or principal interested in setting up home visits at your school? We’ve made it really easy for you. Click the orange button to access our downloadable PDF: 

Inside this Guide you’ll learn:

  • How to setup home visits for the first time

  • The trick to establishing positive communication with parents

  • The essentials to focus on during your home visit

  • And - most importantly - what happens afterwards

  • BONUS: If you are considering home visits at the high school level, we have an extra resource for you inside!

We hope you enjoy this PDF!

When you’re done, please let us know in the comments below: What is one actionable piece of information you are taking away with you today? 

Committed to your success,

Dr. Joni

P.S. Do you have more questions? Please join the lively discussion in The Practitioner’s Backbone forum. We have LIVE group coaching calls (all FREE) every month. More info and sign up here.