Family engagement is a lot easier at the elementary school level: kids want their parents around and events and programs are easy to come by. That changes with middle school and children beginning to assert their independence. As Illinois PTA has pointed out in the past, middle school PTAs can find success by focusing more on parent education and communication events than student-oriented events. The National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement recently shared nine strategies that middle schools PTAs can use to help engage the families in their school.
- Promote awareness of the developmental needs of early adolescents. The growing independence of middle schoolers means they need both autonomy and support. Consider providing training on family decision-making strategies that support both needs. A school counselor can be a good resource or presenter on this topic.
- Provide families with information about how to navigate middle school. Moving from class to class and having different teachers isn’t the only thing that changes with middle school. Students are required to be more organized and deal with more difficult topics in the classroom. Help your families understand the greater need for study skills and self-regulation that middle school requires.
- Emphasize growth mindset. Mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning. Illinois PTA has shared how to help your child develop a growth mindset, and middle school families need to understand what it is and how it is a critical skill for success in middle school and beyond.
- Provide actionable and specific improvement messages. The PTA is often a crucial communications channel for families. Work with your principal and teachers on how your PTA can provide families with concrete actions that parents can share with their children to improve student success.
- Encourage families to approach homework with positivity. Homework provides teachers with information on what students have mastered from the classroom, but also on what they need more support with as well. Make sure your families know the importance of homework for their child’s success, but to also be sure not to do their child’s work for them.
- Partner to provide age-appropriate and supportive routines and structures. Part of the growing independence of middle schoolers is risk taking and the greater influence of their peers. Provide your families with information on topics such as social media and collaborative rule setting. National PTA programs like PTA Connected, The Smart Talk, and Connect for Respect are great resources for accomplishing this.
- Collaborate to create a sense of belonging. With middle school, students no longer have a single classroom, and there is no longer a built-in collection of friends that they spend the day with. Participating in clubs, sports teams, and other social groups in or out of school can help children feel connected and provides them with a sense of belonging. Make sure your families know the importance of these opportunities to build healthy friendships and the other benefits they provide.
- Communicate and model confidences. Middle school students need opportunities to experience leadership at school and at home. Consider having students report to your PTA on what is going on with their grade level and what concerns they have.
- Value home-based involvement. While your PTA can still host events, especially those aimed at educating parents and caregivers, more of your family engagement in middle school will likely take place at home rather than at school as it was for your elementary PTA. Make sure your families understand the importance of what they are doing at home to support their child’s education and share information they can use at home to build that support.
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