Creating A Culture of Parental Involvement
By Becca Rosenthal
Every religious school educator knows that the few hours spent in a religious school classroom each week is not enough to provide students with all of the Jewish education they need. While it certainly provides a foundation, these hours fall flat if families are not bringing Judaism back into their own homes at the end of religious school. So how do we do that?
A great way is to cultivate a sense of community among religious school parents. Here are three ideas to start the year off on the right foot with parents.
1) Ask parents what their goals are.
Bring parents together, and pose this simple questions. The answers will vary: Some parents simply want their children to attend religious school and meet other Jewish children. Others want their children to know the details of Jewish law pertaining to holidays; some want their children to read and write Hebrew. Some don’t know. Simply giving parents an opportunity to articulate what they want their children to get out of religious school and talking about ways that they can help achieve their goals outside of the classroom can get families to adjust their behavior. For older students, allow them to sit in on these meetings. Hearing their parents articulate their goals will start conversations that will continue outside the walls of the meeting.
2) Get parents out of their cars during drop off and pick up!
Try some creative strategies to get parents to park their cars and talk to each other during drop off and pick-up time. Make a schedule that has parents sign up to bring coffee/bagels 15 minutes before the start of classes. As kids are getting settled, parents can chat with one another. This unstructured time where the parents are in the same place at the same time will allow them to get to know each other and to feel a sense of connection to the other people in the building.
3) Provide Adult Education during Religious School
Scheduling adult education at a time where parents are available can be a nightmare. Why not schedule adult education when parents are already at the synagogue? Host a biweekly or monthly text study during religious school hours. Topics can range from the weekly Torah portion to Jewish perspectives on parenting to Jewish comedians. Talk to your Fellow about designing this Adult Ed programming, or better yet, check out the resources you already have in your High School and 9th/10th grade spirals!
A new school year is a new opportunity to change the culture and get parents even more involved and invested. There’s no time like now to try something new!