Kelly E. Middleton
20 Tips for Improving Your Home Visit Program
Updated: Oct 4, 2018
It's home visit time again in Newport Independent Schools. Last year the Kentucky School Board Association honored Newport Independent Schools with the prestigious PEAK Award for this innovative school initiative.
Every child in Newport Schools K-12 will receive a visit by a teacher before the first day of school. This is an attempt to say hello and get to know their students before the school year begins. We aim to make a positive connection with the child and family and perhaps get an insight to each child's gifts and interests. Here are 20 tips for teachers when planning a home visit strategy. Tips for Successful Teacher Home Visits
1. Look at all your student addresses and group them by proximity. Just show up. If you try to schedule, you may never get to everyone. Plan to set aside a few weeks to make your home visits. The goal is to meet every student before the school year begins.
2. You do not have to go into the house. Standing at the gate, beside a car or under a tree is fine. The important thing is just seeing the family in person at their home.
3. Dress comfortably and casually. Remember that body language is very important in the communication process so remember to have a smile on your face and in your voice.
4. For your safety, it may help to make a little noise to see if dogs are around or loose. Consider taking dog treats on your visits. People love their animals and these little thoughtful sentiments can go a long way.
5. Find a way to connect with student and parents. Look for common ground. Complement the family and their student and remember to make it personal.
6. State why you are there: “I am Kelly Middleton and I am one your child’s teachers for the upcoming year. I am here to stay hi and introduce myself and get to know you and your child a little better.”
7. Hand the parents your personal business card and tell parents if there is an emergency they can call you on your personal cell phone. This is high-level relationship-building that can go a long way, even if they never call you.
8. Take a photograph with your student. Perhaps have the photograph on your door or on the student’s desk on the first day of school to remind her or him of your visit.
9. Don’t be afraid to tell the parents and student a little about yourself. A home visit is not an interview. It should be a casual two-way conversation.
10. This is not a time to hand out discipline codes. However, you might be able to get some necessary paperwork signed. Use your discretion on a case-by-case basis.
11. If no one is home, leave a handwritten personal note on the door. I like providing teachers with door hangers displaying our school logo and mission statement.
12. Develop a few exit strategies like telling parents you have other visits to make, thanking them for their time, standing up or moving towards the door or gate.
13. Have a plan in advance for what you will do if they offer you food and drink. Sharing some food or a beverage can help build relationships by making families feel like you’ve accepted them and their offering.
14. Consider the customs and cultures of your students. Some parents want to feed you. Some cultures do not like physical contact and some expect you to take your shoes off upon entering their home.
15. Find out each student’s interest and their gifts. This will help you hook the students when you are teaching them. Frankly, this may be the most important aspect of the visit.
16. Consider giving the student a fun homework assignment for the first day of school. Be creative!
17. Have a notebook in the car for after the visit to record some of the data on each child. Some students may have scheduling issues or health issues and you want to make sure you remember important information. Perhaps take down the parents’ personal phone numbers.
18. Be mindful of going too early or interrupting dinner.
19. Let the student and parents know you care about them.
20. Have fun! You are a very important person to the student and family. Remember it’s hard to change a good or bad first impression.
In my newest book, Competing for Kids 21 Customer Service Concepts Public Schools Can Use to Retain and Attract Students, I give a complete home visit planing guide (Concept # 11 Plan and Reflect) that can be utilized by school or district administration to organize a complete home visit plan.