Principal - September/October 2019 - 54

PA R E N T S & S C H O O L S

A Simple Plan to Make Parents
Feel Welcome
Attempting to engage with 100 percent of families ensures you can reach more of them
By Jesse Kraft

A

s principal, I want my school to
be welcoming, and I want to be
viewed as approachable to all parents. Yet my actions at school events
didn't always match my intentions.
Sure, I'd smile and greet parents
as they came by, but many families
would fade into the crowd, largely
missed as I'd hang out on the sidelines and chat with the more familiar
assistant principals, PTA officers, and
staff members in attendance.
Most parents probably don't expect
to be greeted personally by the principal at an event where there are
hundreds in attendance. But equitable practices require school leaders
to understand the people we interact

with-our staff, our students, and the
parents with whom we seek to form
partnerships. When we take the time
to try to really see students' parents
and families, we appreciate their
culture, their religion, their ethnicity, and their identity. These efforts
signal that we welcome them and that
they have value in our school.
To do this, I set a goal to greet
100 percent of family members at
evening events. I would no longer
station myself on the sidelines, and I
wouldn't let greetings be incidental.
I would intentionally set out to say
hello to, and make eye contact with,
every single person who visited. My
hope was that I'd make more connections to families I didn't know
and that parents would recognize the
effort, feel more comfortable, and
view our school as a welcoming place.
Making It Happen

My first attempt was at back-to-school
night. The event had a set end time,
and the school's main entrance is
the best path to the parking lot. I
stationed myself in the center of the
lobby a few minutes before the end
time. At first, I did great: The first
wave of parents was light, and I said,
"Thanks for coming," "Have a great
night," and "How'd we do?" I made
eye contact and was feeling energized. Then another wave of parents
rushed through.
I probably looked a bit manic trying to catch the eyes of a few hundred
people in a span of a few seconds,
and some people were getting by me.
A few parents tried to parlay my farewell into a longer conversation, and

54

Principal n September/October 2019

I would acknowledge their request
while asking them to give me a few
minutes to say goodbye to everyone.
I didn't achieve 100 percent engagement that night, but I made many
more connections than I previously
had with my off-to-the-side, nonchalant approach.
My next attempt was a family movie
night sponsored by the PTA. During
the event, families come to the school
cafeteria to watch a movie, setting
themselves up in lawn chairs and
blankets. I wasn't able to be in the
lobby as families came in, so I walked
through the cafeteria and made a
quick visit to each blanket or beach
chair to greet everyone. I didn't
linger. I simply stopped by, smiled,
shook hands where appropriate, and
said, "Thanks for coming."
This was easier than I thought.
Kids wanted me to visit their seats
and blankets, and parents reacted
with smiles. Because I interacted with
everyone, it made it easier to correct a
few children for misbehaving during
the movie. Parents immediately supported my corrections.
I didn't stop there, however. New
parents are a subset that I needed to
engage, so I spoke to the registrar-
whose responsibility it is to know all
new parents-about my goal. To make
the best first impression, I asked her
to interrupt me anytime she enrolled
a new student, so I could personally
meet the child and parent. If I was
in a closed-door meeting, she could
interrupt. If I was in a classroom, she
could summon me. It costs me about a
minute to have each face-to-face interaction, but they have been worth it!
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Principal - September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Principal - September/October 2019

From the Editor
Snapshots
5 Things
Getting to Why
A Brighter Future for Personalized Learning
Models of Voice and Choice
When Rural Gets Personal
Research Roundup: The Personal Touch
New Sensation
The Language of Learning
Giving Back, Together
In the Spotlight
Practitioner’s Corner
Early Career
Raising the Bar
The Reflective Principal
Speaking Out
Parents & Schools
NAESP Partners & Advertiser Index
Principal - September/October 2019 - Cover1
Principal - September/October 2019 - Cover2
Principal - September/October 2019 - 1
Principal - September/October 2019 - 2
Principal - September/October 2019 - 3
Principal - September/October 2019 - From the Editor
Principal - September/October 2019 - 5
Principal - September/October 2019 - Snapshots
Principal - September/October 2019 - 7
Principal - September/October 2019 - 5 Things
Principal - September/October 2019 - 9
Principal - September/October 2019 - Getting to Why
Principal - September/October 2019 - 11
Principal - September/October 2019 - 12
Principal - September/October 2019 - 13
Principal - September/October 2019 - 14
Principal - September/October 2019 - 15
Principal - September/October 2019 - A Brighter Future for Personalized Learning
Principal - September/October 2019 - 17
Principal - September/October 2019 - 18
Principal - September/October 2019 - 19
Principal - September/October 2019 - Models of Voice and Choice
Principal - September/October 2019 - 21
Principal - September/October 2019 - 22
Principal - September/October 2019 - 23
Principal - September/October 2019 - When Rural Gets Personal
Principal - September/October 2019 - 25
Principal - September/October 2019 - 26
Principal - September/October 2019 - 27
Principal - September/October 2019 - Research Roundup: The Personal Touch
Principal - September/October 2019 - 29
Principal - September/October 2019 - New Sensation
Principal - September/October 2019 - 31
Principal - September/October 2019 - The Language of Learning
Principal - September/October 2019 - 33
Principal - September/October 2019 - 34
Principal - September/October 2019 - 35
Principal - September/October 2019 - Giving Back, Together
Principal - September/October 2019 - 37
Principal - September/October 2019 - 38
Principal - September/October 2019 - 39
Principal - September/October 2019 - In the Spotlight
Principal - September/October 2019 - 41
Principal - September/October 2019 - Practitioner’s Corner
Principal - September/October 2019 - 43
Principal - September/October 2019 - Early Career
Principal - September/October 2019 - 45
Principal - September/October 2019 - Raising the Bar
Principal - September/October 2019 - 47
Principal - September/October 2019 - The Reflective Principal
Principal - September/October 2019 - 49
Principal - September/October 2019 - 50
Principal - September/October 2019 - 51
Principal - September/October 2019 - Speaking Out
Principal - September/October 2019 - 53
Principal - September/October 2019 - Parents & Schools
Principal - September/October 2019 - NAESP Partners & Advertiser Index
Principal - September/October 2019 - 56
Principal - September/October 2019 - Cover3
Principal - September/October 2019 - Cover4
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