The Importance of Home Visits: A Teacher’s Point of View
February 12th, 2013 posted by Mary Louise Murguia-De La Rosa
by Mary Louise Murguia-De La Rosa
Home visit-those two words used to strike fear in my heart until I got to see, first hand, the power that they hold. I’d always heard of home visits, but in my mind’s eye they were conducted by counselors or truancy officers for students in crisis. It wasn’t until recently, after conducting several home visits, that I experienced their advantages for myself. For the purpose of this article I am defining a home visit as: a visit by a teacher to the student’s home in the hope of increasing connections between school staff and students in their community. There are many possible goals for these visits including: bridging cultural barriers, reporting on academic progress, enlisting parental support to increase academic achievement, and giving parents the tools to do so. Ideally these home visits would be conducted before the school year begins to help the teacher find out about the needs and interests of individual students. This initial meeting is important because it helps the parent and student become acquainted with the teacher in a non-intimidating way. This visit can also help teachers have a better understanding of the various strengths and challenges faced by each student and to meet the student and their family in a relaxed setting. During the visit the teacher documents and records important information about the student including issues that could become potential problems such as health issues, relevant family situations, or previous school problems. If possible, the teacher should schedule a follow up meeting with the parents sometime after the first semester. This allows all interested parties to chart the student’s progress throughout the year and to address any anxieties that the parent or student may have. By leaving the classroom and entering the homes of their students, the place where parents and families have the most authority, teachers are recognizing the fact that parents are their children’s first educators and know their child better than anyone else. Parents may be more willing to share their concerns and teachers can encourage their continued involvement in their child’s academic life. At this first relationship-building visit the parent is personally invited, by the teacher, to the school’s first parent night/open house. My experience has been that parental involvement during the middle school years drops off considerably. For whatever reason parents just don’t seem to involve themselves in their child’s academic career as much. Some of this may have to do with their student pushing them away or not receiving school notes or communications from their child. By the middle school years daily teacher-to-parent communication, such as a behavior folder, is no longer feasible. Oftentimes middle school students have up to seven teachers as opposed to one and it may seem overwhelming. This is where the home visit can prove advantageous. By opening the lines of communication early, the teacher can enlist the parents to be actively involved in their child’s education. After all, home is more than a physical meeting space or four walls, it’s where values and beliefs are formed and nurtured. By understanding family values the teacher gains priceless insight into what makes her students tick. It is realistic to expect that there may be some parents who are unwilling or unable to meet with the teacher in such an intimate fashion but an effort must be made none the less. I have always thought of education as a three-legged stool: student, parent, and teacher. With all three legs intact, the student has a solid foundation, however if one of those “legs” is missing then the process is more challenging. Teachers, administrators, and parents must all be part of the foundation of student success and be willing to support the student in their academic career. My challenge to fellow educators is to make that extra effort to get to know their students in the place where they feel most comfortable – home. Building upon a parent-teacher-school foundation is a win win situation for all.