During the start of fourth grade, Michael was having a “rocky time.”
Then his mom, Arisha, got a call. Michael’s math teacher, Mr. Thomas Mayfield, asked if he could visit their family at home. No, Michael wasn’t in trouble – this was simply an opportunity for them all to chat face to face, outside of a classroom setting.
“I’m not going there to talk about how to identify an acute angle,” Mr. Mayfield said. “We’re going to talk about your hopes, dreams, and goals.”
Home visits are an ideal first step in the family engagement process because they create a level of understanding and empathy that’s not attainable in a routine 10-minute parent-teacher conference. After a home visit, instead of teachers and parents seeing one another exclusively in their roles as teachers and parents, they see each other as people, with complex histories and lives.
Stand for Children launched the Home Visit Project in 2015 and we’ve seen it grow steadily ever since. At participating schools, attendance is up, behavior referrals are down, grades are improving, and students are more engaged. Teachers say they feel more connected to their students, more respected by families, and have a renewed sense of commitment to their profession.
Home visits made a tremendous difference in Michael’s life.
“You can see a definite change in him as far as his attitude, his behavior, and the way he acts in school and out,” Arisha said.
Mr. Mayfield has seen Michael’s math skills improve, particularly his ability to read through problems and memorize multiplication facts.
Home visits aren’t new; educators have been doing them for as long as schools have been around. But these types of visits, especially the first one early in the school year that focuses exclusively on building relationships, are unique. They don’t just check the family engagement box – they help form meaningful partnerships between school and home for the benefit of kids.