Activity Guide

Adding Parents to the Mentoring Mix

Although faculty members typically are the ones who discuss students’ grade-to-grade transitions, successful schools broaden their vision beyond a single school and work with feeder schools to achieve the ultimate goal: a continuum of student success.

A key resource often missing from this continuum of success is the one consistent resource for students as they transition from school to school: parents or guardians. In this activity, school leaders are encouraged to help parents develop “school sense” through professional development. Parents can then have the knowledge and relationships with the school needed to be partners with teachers and advocates for their children.

Teaching parents how to talk to teachers and be involved in their children’s education through high school supports students and builds a strong school community. Many of these techniques and strategies are relevant to school leaders at all grade levels who prepare students and parents for successful transitions into, within, and out of schools.

Reading: “Professional Development for Parents.” Principal Leadership, February 2011, pp. 26–31.


Pre-reading Activity

The authors of the article suggest that schools should offer the parents of new high school students “professional development” to help them provide effective and supportive guidance as their students enter and advance through high school. This activity is appropriate for groups of school leaders or school teams at every grade level because it provides strategies and protocols to involve all parents.

  • Ask participating staff to brainstorm individually, producing a list that responds to this question: What do you wish that all of your parents of ninth graders (or a grade level at your school) knew or would do to successfully support their children and your school?
  • In groups of five to six have participants share their lists and reduce their entries to one master list that captures the consensus of the group. Caution them that the items should all be things deemed to be within their sphere of influence as school staff members.
  • Lead a brief large-group discussion, allowing participants to share a few of their ideas and asking them to think about the degree to which the items on their lists are things that parents can be “taught” or “coached” to practice.

Reading Activity

Participants should be seated in table groups. Provide participants with copies of the reading, “Professional Development for Parents.” Ask them to read the article, making notes of ideas that they want to discuss or consider for implementation. When reading is completed, give the table groups time to answer these questions:

  • Which concerns on your pre-reading list were addressed by the tips and suggestions offered in the article?
  • How many of the tips and suggestions are things you could implement in your school? Are there items you would need to “tweak” to make them better suit your school population?
  • Create a list of 10 Simple Suggestions modeled after the list in the article, but tailored to your school population, recognizing, for example, that not all parents have easy email access.

Extend and Apply

Form a team to address the scope and quality of your professional development program for parents:

  1. Are there missing elements you will try to add to your existing program for parents?
  2. Will you try to create a new, more effective professional development program for your


  1. How can you share the design and receive input from your parent groups?

Conclude this activity with a whole-group discussion led by the recommendations of the team, allowing participants to share a few of their “next steps” with others. Use the discussion guide planning tools as needed.