A Parent and Teacher's Guide to Family Involvement for High School Students

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Exceptional Students

Low Socioeconomic Status Students

Education is faced with the challenge of meeting the needs of students from all walks of life. Educators can benefit from studying case studies, particularly that of Mixon et al. (2014) of six high school students with diverse backgrounds from a low achieving school. These particular students found success from highly specific aspects corners of their life. The purpose for studying these students is for teachers who may not understand the home life of students where family contributions are little or students need to take on additional responsibilities outside of school. Teachers must learn from case studies and research to support exceptional students to succeed in their given circumstances.

From the case studies and stories from these six successful successful students (Mixon et al., 2014), there are some need to knows for teachers working with students who come from common challenging communities where parents may not be able to provide support to their student. Each suggestion comes from Mixon et al.'s (2014) case study, which should be noted that these students have experienced unique circumstances which can not necessarily be generalized to similar students. Effective teachers should pay attention to their students' needs and should support the involvement of the family and community as much as are able. These particular students were chosen for this case study because of their exceptional family and community contribution. Suggestions (made in italics) are tips for teachers who encounter these exceptional circumstances. Comments are made in the strengths section to help teachers create strong learners in their classroom, especially when working with low socioeconomic populations.

Challenges to be aware of (suggested from case study):

  1. Absent Fathers
    1. Did not learn how to be a man because they were not taught. Encourage students to join mentorship initiatives.
    2. Unclear role for African American adolescents in society. Teachers can help students create positive roles within class.
    3. Took additional responsibilities a father would traditionally adopt resulting in growing up faster.
      1. Some claim as a positive because this responsibility removed negative influences.
  2. Lack of stability in the home
    1. Motherly figure sick or unable to provide leads to needing to fend for self and seek others to assist.
    2. Seek money in legal ways (such as a job) when no money is available. Provide community resources to assist students working efforts, provide flexibility with class responsibilities.
    3. Acts as a family support to younger siblings who crave stability. Listen to the needs of the student so they may also provide good support.
  3. Negative Peer and Community Influences
    1. Feeling of no community support for positive endeavors. Teachers can create classroom communities to support students.
    2. Drugs, alcohol, fighting, sex trade, etc. prominent in the community. Unsafe community. Make the classroom a welcoming, safe community which fosters learning.
  4. Inadequate School Experiences
    1. Perceived lack of care from teachers and administration. Teachers make personal connections with students to demonstrate care and respect towards students.
    2. Lack of support in the educational system. School staff needs to regularly reject the deficit theory and believe all students can achieve.
    3. Prior experiences of negative self worth and low expectations. Continue providing students with positive self worth and high (attainable) expectations to outnumber the negative experiences and low standards of the past.

Supports that have worked in the past:

  1. Spiritual Growth
    1. All participants expressed strong spiritual growth. Form an identity outside of school and home which promotes good, strong, consistent morals.
    2. Deep reflection to look past negative influences and school perceptions. Community encouragement which promotes good behaviors.
    3. Helped keep focused on positives in a student life, promoted positivity.
  2. Responsibility to Maternal Figure
    1. The sight of mother and sibling struggle drives the students to make their mother proud. This leads to high achievement and high personal expectations which tend to be more powerful than suggested expectations.
    2. Maternal figure serves as a guide to educational journey.
  3. Helpful School Personnel:
    1. When students asked for help, they sought teachers and administrators they knew would listen. Often students do not know the proper etiquette to ask for help and teachers may perceive the request as disrespectful, however the student really WANTS and needs help.
    2. Student provided the teacher or administrator with the solution to the problem. This may be an encouraging idea for any student, teachers and administrators are impressed with the students ability to problem solve.
    3. Specific teachers showed care and concern. Be the teacher all students can rely on.
  4. Inner Motivation to Succeed
    1. All students in this study fell down the "wrong road" at one point but came to realize their larger responsibility and need for improvement. Help students recover from past mistakes, they are learning in school and in life. Have faith that students are making improvements!
    2. Drive to be better than they were before.

Special Needs Students

As part of a successful special education program, schools and teachers are expected to create transition plans for students who are part of the special education program. Plans are made for students who are full time enrolled in special education, but also for students who use additional assistance in general education classes. Parents of students who are enrolled in special education have many additional responsibilities that general education students do not face. The inclusion of students in the transition plan meetings is relatively new and participation is highly correlated with students success in transition (Griffin et al., 2014).

As discussed in the Parent's Roles section, parental involvement positively impacts student achievement. During transition planning for students in special education, the role of the parent is to provide encouragement, create opportunities and assist students in exploration of post-graduation plans. "By engaging in conversations at home, students are likely more aware of the issues around transition, and likely benefit from practice in communicating their perspectives" (Griffin et al., 2014, pp 261).

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