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Many school districts have established successful teacher home visit programs. Home visitations by teachers get parents involved in their child's education -- and they let parents and children know how much teachers care. Education World writer Sherril Steele-Carlin talks with administrators about how home visit programs work. Included: Tips for starting a program plus links to Web resources with more information.
Principal Charlie Denis believes that teacher home visitation programs can make a real difference. "Parents, teachers, and students were very positive in their response," Denis said of a pilot visitation program at Saddle Ranch Elementary School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. "Parent-teacher communication has been a strong point of our school" since teachers there participated in a one-year home visitation program, Denis told Education World.
Programs that provide time and funding for teachers to visit students and parents on their own turf are a way for teachers to learn more about their students, get the parents more involved in their kids' education, and bridge cultural gaps that might occur between student and teacher. Most teachers report their home visits have a lasting effect on the child, the parent, and parent-teacher communication.
Home visits by teachers aren't a new idea. The Head Start program has used them for many years; Head Start teachers are required to make at least two home visits for each student during each school year, in addition to regular parent-teacher conferences at school. Many U.S. kindergartens also require home visits by the teachers before school starts.
Now home visits are catching on across the grade levels and around the world. Schools in England, Australia, Japan, and the United States all report success with teacher home visits. Many school districts now have programs that require teachers to visit their students' homes at least once each school year.
THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF HOME VISITSTeachers' visits to students' homes can take many forms. The visitation approach might vary from school to school and from teacher to teacher. The approach might also depend on the funding source. In some schools, teachers prefer to travel in pairs to their visits; they feel more comfortable that way, and sometimes teachers need a translator in order to communicate with a child's parents. Other teachers visit one-on-one with the parent. Some interact with the child and the parents. They bring along learning activities for the child that also involve a parent's participation. Visits can last anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the teacher and the activities.
"Teachers scheduled their own visits by phone," explained Charlie Denis of Saddle Ranch Elementary. "They spent 30 minutes with the student and their parents. The purpose of the visit was to learn about the student's needs, interests, and concerns, and to establish communication and rapport with the parents."
The visits were conducted with each student before their new school opened in 1999, said Denis, adding, "Parents have asked us to consider doing visits each year."
Arranging the visits, though, can require some creative scheduling. "Teachers report that sometimes it can be a challenge to find a mutually agreeable time for a home visit," Bonnie Schmidt, principal at the Tyron Hills Pre-Kindergarten Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, told Education World. "Some teachers go to the workplace of the parent if the parent is not able to be home during the day or early evening."
Schools in Greenville, South Carolina, began a home visitation program with three teachers whose sole responsibility was making home visits. In 1998, those three teachers made 719 home visits with parents whose children were between infancy and age three.
Today, Greenville has 22 parent educators who conduct monthly home visits with 40 families who have who have children ranging from infancy to age three, according to Rhonda Corley of the School District of Greenville County. Additionally, the district has 52 teachers of four-year-olds who conduct three home visits annually with the families of their students. Each teacher is responsible for meeting with 20 to 40 families of the city's 1,300 four-year-olds. "The goal of all of our early childhood efforts is to help each child be 'ready' to be successful in first grade," Corley added.
In Missouri, the Branson Kindergarten Center has been doing pre-kindergarten home visits for the last three or four years. The staff there learned about teacher home visits by attending a workshop at the Practical Parenting Partnerships Center. Some of the teachers were given additional training.
"The first year, not all teachers wanted to participate, and we gave them that option," Marj Trumble, principal of the Center told Education World. "By the second year, they all saw what exciting results the [participating] teachers got, and they all got involved."
The Branson Center tells all prospective employees about the program, so they know what's expected before they are hired, added Trumble. "We've had so much positive feedback. Teacher home visits are a very successful part of our program now," she said.
WHERE DOES THE MONEY COME FROM?Funding for teacher home visits comes from a variety of sources:
HOME SWEET HOMESome teachers have reported they were uncomfortable at first with the idea of visiting their students' homes, but most of those discomforts seem to dissipate once the actual visits begin. In Branson, if parents are uncomfortable with the idea of a home visit, they are invited to meet the teacher at school.
Encouraging parents to become more involved in their child's education by opening their homes to teacher visits has brought positive results to the schools, and teachers that have tried it. In the near future, home visits may become part of many more teachers' job descriptions.
MORE HOME VISIT RESOURCES ON THE WEB!
Included below are links to other online sites for students and teachers in search of teacher visitation program information:
A Guide to Home Visits
The Michigan Department of Education's division of Early Childhood Programs produced this thorough guide. Sample forms included. [archived copy found on docstoc.com]
A Guide to Team Home Visits
This guide from the San Francisco Unified School District provides rationale, preparation tips, protcols, timelines, and other suggestions.
Recruiting for Opening Day
Scroll down the page for this article, which explains how one district uses home visits to ensure that all students attend class on the first day of school. (Note: Scroll way down the page for this article.)
Strategies to Serve and Involve Families
This paper discusses seven schools' parent involvement programs; six of the schools employ home visits as part of their programs.
Excellence in Education Through Innovative Alternatives
You can read the testimony several educators gave before a Senate subcommittee on education. Some testimony related to home visit programs in Greenville, South Carolina.
Parents Grateful That Teachers Make House Calls
This CNN article discusses a home visitation program in Sacramento from the parents' point of view.
Bill Calls for Parent-Teacher Home Visitations
This article talks about the California Legislation that created funding for teacher home visits.
Article by Sherril Steele-Carlin
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