Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Parent University

Last year, our Social Worker came up with a brilliant (interpreted as CRAZY) notion. 

"Guys, I got an idea..."

These 5 words rarely lead to something easy to accomplish- but they do often lead to something AMAZING. 

Tabby, our Social Worker and integral part of our Elementary Counseling Team, wanted to create an evening where parents could come and attend mini-sessions that would focus on parenting issues. On paper, it seemed easy. In reality, not so much. But what we did, was create an evening of not only mini-sessions for parents, but free dinner (yep, FREE)... free door-prizes for all attendees (yep, FREE)... and free CHILDCARE (are you hearing me?!?!). Plus we did one per semester. 

I'm not sure how we didn't have parents beating down our doors! 

So why stop at one year... why not do it again.

SO here's a basic guideline of what we did:

     1.) Pick a school, pick a day.
We have six Elementary Schools so we wanted to be able to use all six school eventually. We're focused on using the Elementary Schools because it's for parents of Elementary aged students! Our MS and HS do parent nights but we wanted to do something District wide. Also, make sure you try and avoid school functions, church activities, and Fridays :) This year, ours was on a Thursday from 5:30pm- 7:30pm.

     2.) Just because it's free to parents, does NOT mean it's free to put on!
Yea, we needed funding. Last year, our PTO's were phenomenal at donating money. Each school's PTO donated $50 (equaling $300 to use)! While this may not seem like a ton of money, you must become resourceful.

     3.) Get the word out!
Some parents get tired of their kids bringing home stuff... TOO BAD! We started by sending a Save-The-Date card home. Then a survey where parents could pick up to six different topics that they may be interested in attending. We used this information to help determine what topics to get presenters on. Also they could mark if they were planning on coming and if so, how many kids they would bring. Just because it was directed for parents of Elementary aged students, doesn't mean we didn't want the whole family to come! Moms, dads, siblings, bring em! 

     4.) If you feed them, they will come.
Seriously, provide dinner! The first time we did it, our School Lunch company catered for us. But, it was pretty costly. So this year, we reached out. Papa Johns gave us a HECK of a deal on pizzas. So pizza dinner, with salad (thanks Wal-Mart), dressings (thanks local restaurant), cookies (thanks local bakery), and lemonade (bought from Wal Mart and served in a big 5gal. orange drink cooler- thanks Delta Gamma!).

     5.) Get volunteers!
Parent volunteers- check! Teacher volunteers- check! Community volunteers- check! Our six presenters... ALL local community members from Mental Health professionals, pastors, Behavior Consultants, parents, etc. Our food: served by teacher volunteers from all six buildings. Registration: done by teacher and parent volunteers. Childcare: Media Specialist, Art Teacher, and Gym Teacher. 

     6.) Reward Them!
We had two half-hour sessions where parents could pick from three sessions to attend (six in all and parents got to attend two). Some parents were smart and split up, giving them 4/6 sessions attended. In the folders they received during registration, they had an Evaluation to fill out (ALWAYS GET DATA!). When they turned in their Evaluation, they received a door prize.
What kind of door prize? DONATIONS!!! Local restaurants, fast food, barbers, nail salons, chiropractors, insurance groups, hair salons, Library, Wal Mart, Marsh, pizza places, -You name it, we went there asking for donations. And many said YES!
We also did have to buy some (candles, books, family movies, games, crafts- all focused on building a stronger family!).

So, was it hard? You betcha! 

Was it worth it? 100% YES!

I would encourage you to look into creating a night of family-focused learning for your parents. It'll be worth it too!


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