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Opinion: Home visits create a safer, more inclusive classroom

Home visits help to break down barriers of discomfort and personal biases between schools and families, especially in marginalized communities.

(Chris Samuels | The Salt Lake Tribune) Students and parents arrive at Glacier Hills Elementary in Sandy for the first day of the school year, Monday, Aug. 15, 2022.

At the beginning of one school year, I was informed that I will be getting a student that has been historically disruptive and destructive in our school. As draining as that notice was, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I scheduled a home visit with this family at the beginning before anything negative happens. The student said nothing throughout the visit, but the rest of the family was welcoming and informative.

After our visit, my co-teacher and I talked about what we learned and discussed ways I needed to adjust in my teaching practice to help with classroom management.

Conducting home visits with my students and their families has been one of the most impactful ways to build strong relationships within my school community. Not only has it helped to increase parent involvement, but also to support my classroom management.

I have conducted home visits with elementary and middle school students for more than five years. I have done visits in their homes, public libraries, McDonalds, at the food court mall, even at city parks in-between football practices. Through home visits, I created a network of families to support my class, developed lasting friendships with families and, most importantly, I gained the trust of the families.

As parents share their hopes and dreams for their students during home visits, I uphold those goals and expectations in the classroom, too. I love the visits because they show students that both parents and teachers are invested in their academic success. These experiences help to create a safer and more inclusive classroom for students.

One of the unique experiences through home visits is learning from diverse-structured families and cultural backgrounds. They teach me social cues, both verbal and non-verbal, that help with classroom management. Through home visits, I learned to be more compassionate toward my students. Knowing more of their story and being aware of their access to educational support at home, or the lack thereof, is vital information for a teacher. This helps with planning and differentiating academic support in schools to meet the needs of students. Home visits help to break down barriers of discomfort and personal biases between schools and families, especially in marginalized communities.

Teachers often express fear of the unknown, personal time loss and question the impact of home visits on academic success. However, families have mixed perspectives about teachers being in their homes too. I urge educators to reflect on their fears and reservations about visits. Then, recognize that students may be feeling the same way about attending school. But if you fear it, they will feel it. Because of home visits, addressing student issues with parents throughout the year is better received. Parents are more open to listening and become more involved in their child’s education.

The student that said nothing at the home visit became my biggest advocate, a student of the month highlight and demonstrated academic progress. Comments of how the student was less disruptive and destructive throughout the school became more frequent from other staff throughout the school. Communications with the family grew more positively. Without that home visit, I would not have learned how to handle the student’s behavior throughout the school year.

If you do home visits with an openness to learn from families, they will reciprocate that same courtesy. Home visits may not solve all the problems in the classroom, but the return on investing in these experiences is immeasurable. Its impact on strengthening school community relationships can be felt beyond the classroom.

Fangaafa Fataimoemanu Tu’ifua, known to her students as Ms. Fatai.

Fangaafa Fataimoemanu Tu’ifua, known to her students as Ms. Fatai, is currently a 5th grade teacher at Canyons School District and serves as a Hope Street Group Utah Teacher Fellow. Her greatest investment as a teacher is in building positive relationships.

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