We talked to Codi Cummings, 1st Grade Teacher at Possip Partner School, Waverly Belmont, and leader of their Parental Involvement Committee, about the creative ways they practiced equitable family engagement for their Family Game Night event.
Waverly Belmont (WB), which is an elementary school in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS), takes parent and family engagement to the next level.
When Codi Cummings got approval from WB’s leadership team to start a Parental Involvement Committee, she intentionally set out to create a committee that represented the student and parent body. To do this, Codi contacted guidance counselors, social workers, local community partners, and others to ensure that any parent, educator, or community member who wants to be a part of the committee has an opportunity.
Family Game Night
The committee’s event planning efforts have been just as intentional as its formation. To plan a Family Game Night, the parents and community members on the Committee answered key questions. What would make you feel most comfortable? Welcome? Involved? What do you need as a family? Codi said, “We were asking families for so much, so we wanted to ask them: what can we do that makes you happy and involved in our school?”
They partnered with WB’s librarians (Laura Hartley & Katie Barksdale) to host the event during MNPS’ “Read Me” week. The librarians developed a theme for the week that included a very inclusive message focusing on the children’s book Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. “We were happy to make our event fit into the week celebrating dreams, hope, and love,” said Codi. The book, along with the activities to go with the book, bridged the Family Game Night Event and Read Me Week. In late March, MNPS hosted author Yuyi Morales for an author’s spotlight, which WB students viewed at school.
On Family Game Night, families came to school to take home a free meal, a pack of Uno cards, and a free copy of Dreamers. Teachers and the WB mascot greeted parents and families, and by the end of the night, 250 families were served. 50 extra pizzas went to the Nashville Rescue Mission.
What made the event a success? Equitable Family Engagement.
To make the event equitable for working parents, families who live far away, or families without transportation, the WB team of volunteers went doorstep-to-doorstep. Car or no car, families were involved in the event, and larger families could get three pizzas instead of one.
“We were actively listening to what our families wanted from us… We were just saying ‘we love you, appreciate you and support you,'” said Codi. “But, it was also successful because it was such an equitable event. Having a high number of families and a diverse number of families at events hasn’t always been the case.”
Ready to host a similar event for your school community? Here’s Codi’s advice:
1. Make sure that you have a committee or a group of people that is truly representative of your population.
If you’re trying to design a community event and don’t have parents involved, it won’t give you a good picture of what time parents will come and what they will be willing to do. Our committee enabled us to ask parents across a wide range of populations. We’ve done events in the past, but hadn’t provided transportation options. We wanted to make sure everyone could participate. This was the biggest piece for us, and will still be moving forward. When planning an event for a wide population, you have to have as many people involved from all different walks of life and all different parts of the community.
2. Ask questions.
What kind of event will it be? What days would you like to come? Is it helpful to get a meal? Would you be able to sit at home and play a great game? All of the plans we developed where centered around committee and parent responses.
3. Be intentional.
The smiles on everybody’s faces were great to see! The turnout can be attributed to the intentionality of the accessibility. We asked teachers to call their parents to tell them we really want them to be involved! We let them know we would bring pizzas to grandma’s house. Anybody that we didn’t get signed up through that process, we sent materials and free items home to.
4. Ask parents how they want to communicate.
If you can’t be at a zoom meeting. Do you want me to text? Email? Talking through all of those things reminded me that people want to participate, but some do not have the ability to be at their kid’s schools. Waverly Belmont is 50% down the middle in every category, so we have a really great opportunity to ensure everyone equally contributes. Everybody was willing to make that happen and it was important to have somebody say we’re going to have everybody involved.
5. Use social media.
Our hashtags were #wbgamenight and #wbfamilynight.