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The City Journals

Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project connects parents, teachers, students

Feb 17, 2020 02:40PM ● By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

Principal Andrea McMillan showcases the number of homes visited so far this school year.

By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones | [email protected]

What makes your family special?

As you consider the answer to this question, reflect on this scenario: Two school teachers come into your home. They have pre-scheduled a visit with you, promising you that the visit has nothing to do with your child’s grades or school performance but something else. 

They want to get to know your child better, and they want to know a little more about you.

Savannah Maez, who has been teaching second grade for five years, frankly admits that the Parent/Teacher Home Visits Project offered at her school, and other Title One schools in the Granite Schools District, has taken some time to get going. 

“It’s hard to reach out to parents,” she said. “But once you get a few [visits] done, [the excitement] kind of spreads, and everyone just wants it.”

And that includes an excitement-filled interest from teachers.

“So, right now, I can barely contemplate walking into the bathroom to do what I need to do before we go out [on visits],” Mary-Jane Forbyn, who has been teaching fifth grade for 13 years, said. “On the other hand, once we get there, the excitement with the family is going to energize me, and you’re going to see me just perk up and re-bloom for the day.” 

As for the parents?

“People are really willing,” Maez said. It doesn’t take the parents long to discover that the home visits are just what was promised. Questions such as: “What are your hopes and dreams for your child?” “What makes your family special?” “What’s cool about your kid?” take the front row seat, and the worry about a report to the DCFS (Division of Child and Family Services) travels quickly out the front door.

“This is not a trash-your-child program,” Forbyn said. “This is a ‘how can we know you better? How can we connect with you better?’” 

Still, visits can be difficult to achieve at first, Principal Andrea McMillan said.

“When I first arrived here, I was the third principal in three years,” she said. “Because the community felt as if the school really didn’t care about them — especially after the security doors were put in for the safety of the students — and many felt like the school really didn’t care about the community anymore.” McMillan also said she felt the need to begin “planting the seeds of home visits.”  

Principal at Taylorsville for three years now, McMillan currently has 26 teachers (including educational assistants) who are on board with the Parent/Teacher Home Visits Project. These educators receive training provided by the Utah State Office of Education, travel in twos to homes of families in the Taylorsville Elementary School boundaries and are paid a stipend for their time. 

Not all educators are on board, however — they may have young children at home or feel uncomfortable about entering a home where they don’t know the individuals. But all those who participate are happy they’re engaged, especially when they see increased involvement from parents in various school programs or a child doing better in class because of the project. 

Still, there are things that even teachers don’t expect. 

“I think the biggest surprise for me is to see just how healthy the home environment is overall,” Forbyn said. “It’s easy to see a struggling kid as the one who comes from this horrible background or horrible circumstance. And then we get over there and we are meeting these loving families who have all their interest in their child that they should. And it’s been very nice for me to have my head turned on that.”

As for the students, Maez said the home Visits are “a badge of honor. They love it.”