Blind Spot Alert! Do you have poor parent turnout at your school?

Does this sound familiar—You plan a fantastic event. You know you got all the details just right. You work hard to get the word out. And then when the event happens - only a handful of people show up.

How frustrating!

Want to know what’s a often a huge “blind spot” for schools we work with that leads to poor parent attendance at functions?

As FFS coaches, a surprisingly common blind spot we see is family engagement coordinators discounting immigrant families.

It happens, understandably, because it can feel risky to reach out to communities we’re not comfortable with—parents who speak a different language and who come from a completely different background.

Or maybe you are reaching out to immigrant families but your efforts aren’t effective. Ugh.

If you want to exponentially boost your ability to reach out reach out to immigrant families, keep reading.

When you make the next 5 shifts we reveal to you in today’s blog post (and download the beautiful affirmation cards that go with them!) you’ll start to meet and exceed your parent attendance goals.

Effectively working with immigrant families begins in the heart and in the head. And just a tiny shift in perspective leads to concrete actions that build real inroads with families.

Let’s get started...


Poor Parent Turnout Shift #1: Be curious

Sometimes when people are unfamiliar, our tendency is to pull away or make assumptions. But remember: a stranger is really just a friend you haven’t met yet. And when someone’s experience is very different from your own, assumptions are usually dead wrong.

So keep an open mind. Say something like “I can find things in common with any person I meet today.” The immigrant families in your school community might be unfamiliar to you, but the love and hope they have for their children are not.

When you’re feeling curious you can:

  • Ask three different families different questions this week (example: What do you enjoy doing on weekends? What is a nursery rhyme from your country? What is something you miss about your country?)

  • Do some research (Read online, look at a map, check out what the weather is like in another part of the world.)

  • Create a vision board at your next school community meeting (FFS coaches routinely guide schools through building one at school sites. It’s a visual project that goes beyond language barriers and is super inspiring!)

Poor Parent Turnout Shift #2: Be brave

Talking to someone who doesn’t speak your language takes a lot of moxie. That’s true for immigrant families and also for you!

So take a deep breath, say “I can do hard things” and bravely:  

  • Sit down and learn how to say “Good morning!” in the language of every family in your school.

  • Commit to being at dropoff and pickup for a week. Look for immigrant families to say hello, too. Maybe try out your new language skills!

Poor Parent Turnout Shift #3: Be willing to seek help

If you have many immigrant families in your school community, odds are you have community organizations, religious leaders, and numerous agencies all working in different contexts on the same goal - reaching families. Say to yourself “People are ready to support me and I can find them.”

Here’s an easy way to ask for help in your own school community:

  • Make a list of specific organizations in your community: Think churches, sport organizations, boys and girls clubs, scouts, community health organizations, family support services. Who’s already operating in your area?

  • Make a list of people in your school community who could help translate in teacher/family meetings. This could include staff members or parents who have been in the U.S. longer or have picked up multiple languages quickly.  

  • Reach out and talk to people from your lists and get to know them. See where your goals mesh. Ask if they’d be willing to make a phone calls to families or sit next to families at school events.

Poor Parent Turnout Shift #4: Be excited

Having a multilingual school community is a tremendous asset. All students can leave your school bilingual, maybe even trilingual! And everyone can practice a new language with a native speaker. Only in America!

Build the excitement around this resource by saying “Immigrant families create opportunities for learning things we don’t already know!” and do something like:

  • Post words in different languages around the school (i.e. label the bathroom “el baño” and “les toilettes”)

  • Host a multicultural dance where anyone can teach and learn folklórico, square dancing, Bollywood, hip hop, or Japanese kabuki.

  • Raise money to buy multilingual books for the library.

Poor Parent Turnout Shift #5: Be patient

Working with immigrant families takes time. It’s “inner work”, which takes time, and then the “outer work” is one small action built on another and another.  But if you’re willing to give it your time and energy, your entire school community with flourish in ways you can’t yet imagine.

Practice being patient by saying, “Communities are living, breathing organisms and everyone can grow and develop together.”

Ready to take shifting your perspective to another level? Use these affirmation cards—small daily reminders to see your school community through a new, expansive lens.

Print out the one-page affirmation sheet, cut up each card with scissors, and post them somewhere you can see them daily.

Did you know Family Friendly Schools offers personalized coaching? Click to peek into a coaching session and see how we help our clients get tangible results with immigrant (and all) families.

There are new, real magnificent things that can come out of relationships with immigrant families, but it’s up to you (us!) to be open to discovering them.

In your corner,

Dr. Joni & the FFS Team


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