Strategy 1: Build Positive Relationships
Take attendance in a caring manner. Personalize taking attendance by greeting students by name and welcoming a student back after an absence. This practice both ensures accurate attendance data is collected and helps strengthen a student’s positive sense of connectedness to the school community.
Welcome each family and child at the beginning of the year. There are many good examples: a smile and a high five as students board the school bus, staff ready to greet families and students at drop-off points and offer directions, a friendly greeting to each family and student at the classroom door, a post card or note welcoming the student to your classroom or a phone call before school begins. If your school has a web-based parent portal, add a warm message to your classroom’s page. Choose a personal and positive way that says, “I’m glad you are here. I look forward to being your teacher and seeing you in school every day.”
When possible, start your relationship with your families on their home turf by offering a home visit. When educators invest upfront in relational home visits, attendance improves and schools can reap many other positive benefits. Ideally, school staff will get trained and then conduct voluntary home visits to families during summer or early fall. This helps open lines of communication and establish a positive home-school relationship before problems arise.
With home visits, families are more likely to feel that educators really care about their children and often gain a deeper understanding of what their children are learning and expectations for their child’s academic achievement. Educators gain insights into the hopes and dreams that families have for their children as well as the challenges a student faces in getting to school every day. In short, relational home visits help bridge the gaps that often exist especially when educators don’t live in neighborhoods served by their schools or share the ethnic or class backgrounds of their students.
Watch how one fifth grade teacher greets each student with a special handshake.