Parents and community as partners:
Helping parents and the whole community join the schools
in a cooperative effort to build good character.
- Parents are a child's first and most important moral teachers. The school must do everything it can to support parents in this role.
- Parents should also support the school's efforts to teach good values and character.
- The school-parent partnership in character education has enhanced impact when the wider community (e.g., churches, businesses, youth organizations, and the media) also supports and promotes the core virtues.
Schools can recruit parents as full partners in character education in many ways. They can:
- Tell parents how vital they are in their child's character development.
- Help parents understand how character is formed (by what children see, what they hear, and what they are repeatedly led to do).
- Share some of the research that shows what powerful influences parents are -- and that shows what works (love, modeling, direct teaching, and discipline).
- Put ideas and materials into parents' hands (e.g., The Parents' Page).
- Sponsor parenting workshops (but have a hook).
- Integrate parents, especially new ones, into the school community (through parent buddies, parent peer groups, and a parent "gathering place" in the school).
- Involve parents on the planning committee for character education.
- In addition to having parents on the Character Education Committee, have a committee comprised just of parents, whose job it is to keep other parents informed, get them involved, and plan special events (e.g., Grandparents' Day) related to the character program.
- Increase direct communication with parents; examples:
- Call parent before the school year ("What can you tell me about your child that might help me do a better job as his/her teacher?")
- Invite parents, with their children, to visit classroom before the first day of school
- Send home Monthly Calendar of daily events (for the refrigerator)
- Clearly communicate the school's core virtues and character education plans to all parents; survey the parents and invite their comments; hold an open meeting; invite parents to review materials and visit classes; send home materials; do a demonstration class (all these build trust).
- Use Back to School Night to build understanding and support of the character effort; follow up in parent conferences (Scotia-Glenville Family Guide).
- Change the timing of the first parent conference to the beginning of the school year; do goal-setting, with both parent and child ("What would you like your child to learn in school this year?")
- Help parents understand and support the school's discipline policy and know how it fits into the overall character effort. (Ask parents to sign written commitment -- not just to sign an "awareness statement" -- to support the core virtues and rules.)
- Help parents participate directly in the character education of their children through:
- School-based activities (e.g., Family Film Nights)
- Home-based activities:
- Parent-initiated (e.g., dinner discussion, bedtime stories) (Can be suggested by school)
- Child-initiated (e.g., school-assigned interviews of parents concerning their attitudes about drugs, their views on friendship, what values they were taught growing up, etc.)
- Raise expectations of parents (e.g., "Parent Participation School")
- Help parents reduce the negative effects of TV, movies, video games, and other media on children's moral growth.
- Establish a Family Resource Center, including counseling.
- Help highschoolers -- someday to be parents -- learn the responsibilities and commitments of marriage and parenting and how to care for young children.