You may have had the familiar experience of sending out hundreds of invitations, letters, and notices, only to have a mere 6 ESL parents show up. Maybe you tried to set up a parent-teacher meeting, only to be foiled by students who "forget" to pass on the info. Here are some creative strategies to increase parental attendance at your teacher-parent meetings.
- Don’t send the invitation only as a text document. Make the invitation more personal by including photos of your students. Think about the mail you receive every day: which one catches your eye? One study shows that invitations with students’ photos, even with black and white photos, will increase the response rate from the parents.
- Make sure you mention that interpreters will be available at the meeting. Not understanding English is a big reason many ESL parents don’t show up. Put phone numbers of the interpreters on the invitation in case parents have any questions. Many parents are afraid to ask questions in public and a contact number will help them to address any concerns.
- Provide food if possible. Many of these parents rush from work to attend the meeting and may not have time to stop at home to eat. Anything you do to make things easier for them will increase attendance. Food, especially food they like, will help more parents to show up. If you are providing food, make sure to mention this in the invitation.
- Offer raffle prizes. Make the meeting more exciting by offering prizes. We know school have a limited budget, but even small prizes like phone cards or lottery tickets will encourage more parents to show up.
- Offer class extra credit points. Create an incentive for your students by offering extra points if their parents show up at the conference. Many students, especially from middle school or high school, are notorious for sabotaging teacher-parent meetings by simply not passing on the information. By offering a few extra points on a minor assignment, students will be more motivated to act as the messenger to their parents.
- Consider offering the option of both a day and evening meeting time. Some of these parents work at nights, and a day time meeting will allow them to come, while others may only be able to make it in the evenings. If only one meeting time is possible, it may help to send out a survey home to find out which time works best for the most number of parents.