Celebrate International Men’s Day By Getting Men Involved at School

By Heather Ippolito, Vice President for Family Engagement 

Involving men on school campuses and in school activities has lasting positive impacts on children. When fathers (or other male role models) are engaged in a child’s education, attendance increases and grades and test scores rise (Education Week, 2018). As we celebrate International Men’s Day on November 19, here are some ideas to help men feel more motivated and comfortable volunteering and participating in school events:

  • Ask men directly to get involved. Your school and your PTA can make it clear to men that their involvement is welcome, in part by emphasizing how men’s involvement in schools will benefit their kids and all kids.
  • Help men see that even small contributions matter.  Lots of dads tend to stay away from PTAs because they think it will take up too much of their time. Help them see that if they participate in even one thing, it will be impactful! Make sure that you have many options for volunteering that take different amounts of time and take into account things that could be done both on and off campus.  
  • Create a “Dad’s Group” with special events for male PTA members. Having a special meeting just for the guys can be a draw! Allow the men time to get to know one another, present them with the volunteer opportunities, and allow them to form connections with other male caregivers. Some units who have had success with this kind of club have also created shirts so that the dads have a special “uniform” that they wear when they are on campus (this also helps to recruit other dads).  
  • Make sure you highlight men’s participation and contributions. Whenever you publish a PTA newsletter or post on social media, you can make extra effort to highlight that men are present and helping. That will help dads see that there’s a place for them at school and in PTA. 

School communities and PTAs thrive when everyone participates. Find additional tips and research on the benefits of increasing male involvement on National PTA’s website

How to Engage High School Parents in PTA

By Kathleen Fay, California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant

As kids get older, family involvement in school and in PTA tends to drop off – even as stakes grow higher. When high school PTA leaders make family engagement a central goal, they can be instrumental in keeping parents/guardians/families engaged and active. 

Your PTA gives families and community members a good reason to become engaged in the school community. By making your meetings matter – either virtually or in person, you provide your members with resources and shared power. Providing members with relevant and important information at your meetings, you can spark interest and attention and hopefully engage more families and community members. 

Here are some meeting tips:

Make sure meetings are well-planned and well-run.

Apply this approach to your agenda to bring members  to your meetings and keep them coming back: 

  • Plan.  Promptly take care of association business at the start of the meeting; allow 20 minutes for this. (See leader tips on how to do this, below.)
  • Present.  Devote the bulk of your time to a presentation by school/community leaders, subject experts, or a panel of students who are invited to speak on a topic of interest and relevance to the lives of high school parents.
  • Prevail.  A good rule of thumb is to keep your meeting to no more than 75 minutes. Your local preferences will help determine a best time limit.

How can you ensure meeting business doesn’t go on too long? 

PTA leaders make this possible by doing committee work in committee, so that precious meeting time is used to conduct the official business efficiently and effectively. High school PTA leaders need to plan carefully, prepare in advance, and make sure the business part of the agenda covers what needs to be done.  Tips for making that happen include:

Invite speakers who can share important information.

When you are spending the bulk of your meeting time on presentations, vary the topics and presenters. Here are some presentation ideas (and possible speakers) to consider:

  • What’s new this year at your high school – academics, programs, personnel, plans, facilities? (good opportunity for the principal to present)
  • Tech Talk: (maybe a panel with a teacher, a district technology expert and a tech-savvy parent)
    • Technology at school and what’s needed at home 
    • Online tools (specific to your school) and how to use them
  • All About Teen Driving – parents are really interested in this! (invite someone from local law enforcement)
  • Career Technical Education/Internships and Work-based Learning Programs: The hot new item on student resumés (ask a speaker from the Regional Occupational Program)
  • Youth & the Law – Legal issues important to parents of minor children or new laws affecting teens that often take effect at the start of the year (reach out to a district spokesperson or the legislation chair from your District PTA)
  • Student Panels: (have diverse students share their experiences and insights
    • What do you know …that we should, too?  – Students share their experiences and insights about life on campus and off
    • Activities and programs to increase student engagement What have students themselves found most meaningful?
  • Finding the Balance – Managing student priorities (good opportunity for counselors to present)
  • College Eligibility and Admissions for Community College and UC/CSU, including testing and course-taking (ask counselors and/or local college admissions officials
  • Mental Health Matters – Issues teens face; resources & approaches (invite a local youth psychologist)
  • Alcohol & Drug Prevention for students & families (use your local police or hospital to lead this)
  • All About Testing – What tests are given when, what’s involved, why do they matter? (include teachers and/or counselors)
  • College Preparation – It’s never too early (ask counselors or parents who have kids already in college)
  • Meet your… [school board members]/[superintendents]/[administrators] (pick one or more)
  • Building the School/District Budget – give parents the chance to express their priorities and understand decision making (allow extra time for this)
    • Single Plan for Student Success – Inform parents about the school site budget process and recommendations going to the district (your school principal and members of the School Site Council)
    • Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) –  Conduct an LCAP input session with district leaders so they can hear what’s important to parents when constructing the district level LCAP

One advantage of this approach is greater cooperation – everyone works together so that your PTA gatherings offer real value for all involved. 

  • Students who participate in panels gain valuable experience preparing and presenting their insights about how activities and programs increase their engagement with school.  
  • Your greater school community contributes their expertise as guest speakers on a variety of topics important to parents of teens, and representatives from other organizations that support youth in the community attend and become engaged with your PTA.  Remember to take advantage of your district’s own experts!
  • Parents benefit from greater participation in PTA and become better educated about relevant issues. A better-informed parent is a better parent!  And drawing the interest of school district leaders affords parents the opportunity to interact with these leaders directly at meetings (administrators, school board members, and superintendents).

Participation in PTA is vital to ensuring the kind of home-school connection that benefits the healthy development of youth. PTAs can positively impact the lives of members by providing programs of real value and relevance. As a PTA leader, you can help to build a connection to  local school staff and administrators by enabling direct interactions, thus boosting family engagement. The information presented in these valuable programs can help to improve parenting skills and empower families and caretakers to take a more active role in their children’s education.

Eleven Ways to Draw a Crowd to Your PTA Meetings

By Heather Ippolito, Vice President for Family Engagement

PTA units are always asking our state leaders “How can we get more people to attend our association meetings and events?” The Leadership Services and Family Engagement commissions teamed up and found some really great strategies to help answer this question that you might want to try in the upcoming school year.*

  1. Have snacks.
  2. Partner with the school to offer childcare.
  3. Offer translation and interpretation services so that EVERY parent can participate in your meeting. (Note: You also need to invite them in their home language.)
  4. Play music as they enter to give the room a fun atmosphere — we know PTA meetings aren’t boring, but other parents might have that impression.
  5. Have opportunity drawings for all in attendance. You can give away spirit wear, homework passes, or gift cards that have been donated by local businesses. 
  6. Incorporate a student performance as part of your meeting. Parents love to see their kids sing, dance, show off that poster or project they’ve been working on, etc.
  7. Give a homework pass to every parent who attends. Work with your school principal on this particular incentive to make sure that every teacher is on board with this incentive.
  8. Provide parent education at your meeting. We have seen success with inviting the local library to talk about reading programs, the sheriff to talk about bullying or biking safety, or even asking your principal to share about different issues impacting parents. This is a great chance to work with the organizations in your community since they often offer free programs that families will find useful.
  9. Bring in guest speakers. Your guests can either be entertaining or educational, but oftentimes a new name can draw a large audience.  
  10. Pair your meeting with another event. You could have your meeting right before the Family Math Night on campus or at the bowling alley before Family Bowling Night — either way you are far more likely to draw a crowd.
  11. Finally, really think about the time and location of your meeting. Are you meeting at a time that’s good for you, or a time that is good for your families? Is your meeting location convenient? Many units think the school is the only place for a meeting, but we do have other options. We can meet at a park, the library, a community center, or other places where our parents frequent. Really be intentional in asking our families the best times and places to meet.

*Note: We know that this year may still have a combination of in-person, virtual, and hybrid events and meetings. Many of these ideas can be adaptable to your particular needs.

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Family Engagement: A Hot Back-to-School Topic

As the summer ends, many workshops, webinars, and virtual conferences are preparing educational leaders, teachers, and parents for the return to school.  Our Family Engagement Team has attended several of them. 

Here are some of the take-aways:

  • We can no longer move forward with families on the sidelines of education.  The pandemic brought families into the classrooms as learning went virtual and parents were forced to monitor/assist with their child’s learning.  Now that these lines of communication and collaboration between our schools and our families have been opened it is critical that we continue on this path.
  • We have spoken for years about the impact of family engagement on students (higher test scores, better attendance, etc.) but we need to mention the impact of family engagement on families as a whole.  Dr. Karen Mapp sites the following things that parents experience as a result of being involved on their child’s school campus:  
    • Their role perception shifts from just a “mom” or “dad” to a “teacher”, “mentor”, or “expert”
    • They gain confidence in their ability to shape and influence their child’s learning
    • They have an increased sense of accountability and begin to advocate for all children
    • They become empowered to take on new challenges– that could include serving on district committees, running for school board, etc. 
  • Family engagement is not a program but a practice— something that every school, administrator, and teacher needs to embrace so that our children can be the best they can be.  Families must be part of the team of experts.
  • Families are as vital to student success as school climate and teachers. A 20-year study from schools in Chicago found there are 5 essential supports for successful schools:  leadership (administration), professional capacity, parent/community ties, student-centered learning climate, instructional guidance (professional development). 
  • Social and emotional learning (SEL) is of particular importance this year. SEL has been a huge topic in most of the workshops about returning to school.  If you want more information to understand just what SEL entails and how families play a major role in social and emotional learning, watch this five-minute video from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

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