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The New Year is a time for celebration, renewal and creating resolutions to guide us throughout the year. Even though the pandemic rages on, there still exists a spirit of optimism amongst us. Understanding that COVID-related schooling issues still plague many districts, here are some COVID-proof tips to engage with families as the new year starts.

1. Make a Call to Just Say ‘Hello’

Over the years, I have heard countless stories from appreciative families who receive a phone call from a teacher, for no other reason than to say hello or check in. The New Year gives us an opportunity to reach out to those families that have been disengaged and may not know how to engage or reengage. Just say hi and Happy New Year. No academic agenda, no negative news, just “Hi. Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to a great 2022!” Pledge to make one call a day.

2. An Interactive Lesson

Interactive lesson design incorporates families into the daily learning of students. More than just checking homework or going over vocabulary words, an interactive lesson allows families to engage with learning and gives students an opportunity to teach their families what they have learned. Keep it simple. Maybe a short interview about New Year’s customs, or a fun puzzle or number game based on 2022. The trick is to keep it simple and fun. Encourage pictures or videos to be sent in.

3. A Weekly Question

Those of you who know me, know about my famous “Two Question Test.” Let’s help families avoid questions like “what did you do in school today?” or “Do you have any homework?” Instead give them a question they can ask their child and encourage them to report back to you. For example: “This week we studied three classifications of dinosaurs. Scientists have complex ways of classifying dinosaurs, but most people separate them into three groups: carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores. See if your child can remember these three categories. Let me know the outcome!” It’s a way to give families a discussion topic and a great way to check for understanding!

4. Make a Visit

While COVID has made it difficult to continue the practice of in-home visits, there are other ways to stay connected to families. Curbside visits, front porch visits and virtual visits are three options that are being used successfully by many educators across the country. You can even create a virtual time to share a cup of coffee or tea and just chat with parents. A short, informal, and personable virtual visit can go a long way toward building support and trust.

5. A New Year’s Resolution: Believe in Engagement

As you think about your resolutions for this year, consider a resolution that reaffirms your commitment to engaging every family. Just the mere act of committing to this idea will begin to change perspectives and improve relationships. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) take extensive time or energy. A quick hello, a fun short family lesson, a question, and a visit can make a huge difference on how this school year ends and how the next one begins.

Together, we can do this

No doubt, 2022 promises to be another challenging year. A strong family engagement strategy can make a big difference.

Later this month, I’m kicking off a virtual working group with school leaders from all over the country. More than 100 of you have already signed up. Together, we’ll connect and practice strategies to help you do this work in your schools.

If you haven’t registered yet, I hope you’ll consider joining the cohort. There’s still time. If you need help signing up your team, simply fill out the form at the very bottom of the page and someone on our side will get back to you.

Thanks for everything you do — and Happy New Year!!

-Steve

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