Effective & Sustainable, Part II: Five Approaches to Build Inclusive, SEL-focused School-Family Partnerships | Nick Haisman-Smith | 5 Min Read

Parent and caregiver involvement in their child’s education has well-evidenced, positive outcomes on a wide range of factors — academic, personal, social, and emotional. Schools around the world work tirelessly to form strong school/family partnerships — from welcoming new families, bringing families to campus for events and celebrations, and working closely to support students and families during difficult times.

When it comes to the SEL dimensions of a school’s partnership with parents and caregivers, there are a number of factors to consider — to truly take SEL beyond the classroom. I have written earlier about the in-school principles that underpin effective SEL. In this article, I want to explore five approaches that help to bring SEL alive, outside of the classroom, throughout your parent and caregiver community.

1. “No two families are the same” — name and celebrate diversity in our family structures and backgrounds.

In planning work with families, schools can build a strong foundation by celebrating the diversity of family structures and backgrounds that exist in communities and finding ways to lift up, amplify, and celebrate diverse voices. This foundation often involves thinking carefully about your language (parents and caregivers, instead of moms and dads, for example), and working to build a diverse and representative parent community, and Parent Association. It is also crucial to plan for language or sign interpreters in communications and in-person parent events.

2. “I didn’t have SEL as a kid” — build a shared language and understanding.

Most parents and caregivers today probably didn’t have SEL as a formal or named part of their own education. As such, parents usually come to this work with a wide range of views, assumptions, and even misconceptions about what SEL is and what it isn’t. Common misconceptions we hear are that SEL takes time away from academics, is for ‘troubled kids,’ or that it is a behavior management tool.

SEL is of course none of these — it is a universal offer to support all students to build essential skills and competencies. Parents and caregivers need the opportunity to learn the what (definition/meaning), why (evidence), and how (tools and practices) for SEL. Avoiding jargon or ‘edu-speak’ is also important to keep our parents and caregivers engaged and feeling a sense of belonging.

  1. “Is SEL a class, like math?” — communicate little and often, to share what SEL skills students are learning in…
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Nick Haisman-Smith

Nick Haisman-Smith ([email protected]) is the Executive Director at the Institute for Social and Emotional Learning and a doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol, UK, focusing on social and emotional learning, educator well-being, and education policy.