Did you see the story about an elementary school piloting a program for parents and teachers called “listening conferences.’’ ? The pilot is scheduled for the first week of school and the idea is to have parents talk while teachers listen. Parents give the teacher insights on their child, along with any other family-related information the teacher should know.
This sounds like a great idea for PTOs to borrow. Picture a meeting where you, as the board, sat and simply listened to what parents had to say. It might feel a little awkward at first because as leaders you spend most of your time announcing, updating and informing. But think of what you could gain.
Ask them to tell you what’s on their minds, what they care about, what their big worries are, and what they hope the school community can be. You know, the big stuff. Set the ground rules for this time as “discussion only,” so you don’t end up getting into the weeds about any particular issue or existing policy.
Chances are, you’ll hear things that will help you shape the PTOs goals for the year. You’ll likely end up feeling a little more connected to the parents, and they are certain to feel a little more connected to you.
For brand new parents, you might want to try some additional outreach. We have some great articles to help, including this piece on making a good first impression on new parents and this article on how to make new families feel welcome.