Home Visits: One of the Best "Deposits" You Can Make Into Your School Community

Nina Davis's picture

Written by Nina L. Davis, Principal, L’Anse Creuse Middle School East and Middle Level East Representative on the MASSP Board of Directors

I was recently asked to speak to our district school board about an initiative that I am extremely proud of in the building. Immediately (and without a doubt), I knew that I would be speaking to the board about home visits! We have been conducting home visits at L'Anse Creuse Middle School – East for over five years now. It is, by far, the best initiative I have been involved with to date as an administrator.

The majority of our home visits are conducted in the two-week period prior to the start of the school year. Students identified as "academically at-risk" (Title I) are the target of our home visits. In previous years, we found that we were having a difficult time engaging parents in required Title I programs. We revamped our Title I plan and replaced our parent engagement activities with home visits. We figured that if we couldn't get parents to come to us, then we'd neutralize the territory and go to them! Teachers are "invited" to participate and paid an hourly rate for their time in conducting these visits. The basic premise of these back-to-school home visits is to welcome both the student and the parent back for the upcoming school year and to introduce the student to one adult that they can identify when they enter the building on the first day of school. We also deliver the student's schedule (showing an at-risk class they've been scheduled for), supplies, a backpack and an invitation to attend our registration event the following week.

To date, we have only received positive feedback from our community regarding home visits. It is, essentially, the "deposit" we make that allows us to withdraw from all year long! Later in the year when I have to make negative phone calls regarding discipline, I often get parents commenting, "Mrs. Davis, you know you can call me anytime. I still remember the time you came by our house to visit my son/daughter and welcome him/her back to school." It is funny how word starts to spread that we are in the community on the days that we are conducting home visits. Many times we witness students running from their homes up to us to give hugs and ask if we are coming to their homes next. The only disappointing thing about our home visits is that I wish I could visit the homes of all 700 students in the building!

Parents and students are not the only ones that benefit from our home visits. Many of our teachers have found themselves becoming more empathetic as a result of home visits. Teachers get to see the communities that our students come from and where they return to every day when they leave our building. One teacher has recently started to rethink the idea of issuing homework (or at least reducing the amount) after what he describes as "an eye-opening home visit" where he witnessed that there was no table or area for the student to work at in the home. Some teachers are even surprised to find during these visits that some of our identified Title I students live in newly developed subdivisions in quarter to half-million dollar homes. Educating our staff on the fact that the Title I label is directly related to being academically at-risk and not always a socio-economic label has been an important lesson for all to learn.

I highly recommend all educators try home visits. It truly evens the playing field and removes all barriers when trying to connect with parents and the community in which your school serves. If you are interested in reading more about home visits, the following are great resources to begin with: