Home visits are an integral part of René and Nisha’s work.
Nisha: I do a lot of reach out prior to. I may send a postcard home. I may send the letter home. I may make a phone call, always start with something that’s positive, and I reiterate to my family’s, “I’m here to support you. I am here to ensure that it doesn’t get to a level of crisis where it’s totally out of your control. Let me help you to get some things and some building blocks in place. I’m just very proactive instead of being reactive.
Nisha: One particular family that I’ve worked with, it’s a very, very large family and so I let them know about resources, things that are going on. I have weekend food bags that I send home in a backpack. So it’s not like they’re actually walking out with you know [food], but they have a backpack, and they feel normal.
For René and Nisha, the Arlington ISD’s department of parent and community engagement is a lifeline.
Nisha: We have almost 61,000 kids in our district and at last check, we were the 11th largest district in the state of Texas. If we didn’t have that we would completely fall apart.
René: It helps us do our jobs more effectively. Because we are pulled in so many different directions, but if you do have a Family Involvement Representative on your campus, you work hand-in-hand with them. They know what’s happening with our families. And we survey our families to find out what topics they want to have covered [at Parent Universities] and that’s important data for us to make sure that were pulsing to make sure that we’re getting their needs met.
René and Nisha say ultimately, everything they do with parents is about strengthening that bond and building relationships of trust with parents and students.
René: You have an opportunity to give every child that hope, give them that passion, give them the, “I love school, and I want to be here.” So you have a smile on every single day. You’ve learned their names. It is my goal every year, every single day when I see someone, I know them. It’s not honey. It’s not sweetie. It’s, “Hi Gavonte,” it’s, “Hi Darlene.” It’s personalization so that they feel like this is where I belong because school has to be a family and it’s just an extension of what they have at home.
Nisha: Yes, and to piggyback on what René said, just connectivity you know, personalizing each and every one of their experiences, letting them know that “You are someone that is very special. You have a lot of worth. And I’m so excited about the things that you’re going to do in the future.”