The impending rollout of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Program (PTHVP) by the Detroit Public Schools Community District took Tiffany Kirksey completely by surprise. “I was shocked,” she says. “I hadn’t heard of teachers doing home visits since way back when I was in school.”
Tiffany follows this statement with a wry laugh which echoes through the walls of Nolan Elementary. She leaves the exact number of years that have passed since “way back when,” a mystery.
Tiffany’s three children–ages 10, 9, and 6–all attend Nolan, where they are star students. Much of their success is owed to their parents’ unique engagement with the school. Tiffany is an involved volunteer at Nolan as a Parent Action Leader (PAL, a parent volunteer that works to engage other parents), and the children’s father, Keith Tye, is an employee with the district as a custodian. They were among the first to find out about the program, and quickly agreed to participate. Although Tiffany and Keith were excited to be involved, they were also a bit nervous about what they might have gotten themselves into.
“I thought it was a good idea, but honestly, I was still a bit skeptical,” Keith shares.
Tiffany is very familiar with that skepticism. As part of her PAL role, she was asked to help recruit parent participants for the PTHVP. A lot of the parents she talked to were uncomfortable with the idea of opening up their homes. Others worried that the PTHVP was really about investigating parents, not engaging with them. However, providing clearer details about the program’s requirements, and its goals, helped to lessen those fears.
In particular, many parents became more open to participating once they knew that the visits can be held at the park, library, or even a local restaurant in addition to the home, just somewhere off-site from the school.
The same details that Tiffany provided to other parents, helped her and Keith to overcome their own anxiety about participating. By the time their first visit came around, her biggest concern was making sure she was a good hostess.
“Oh my God. I was a mess,” she says with a laugh. “I cleaned up and everything, but then I’m thinking ‘Ok the house is clean, but what else do I need to do? Am I supposed to cook for them?’ I wanted to make a good impression.”
Thankfully, the teacher participants who visited Tiffany and Keith were determined to make a good impression, too. And they did; when asked to sum up their experience with the PTHVP in one word, Tiffany chose “Awesome.” Keith’s word was “Excellent.” The parents shared that the program has resulted in better communication with their children’s teachers, stronger relationships with them, and increased awareness of what is going on in their children’s classrooms.
More importantly, they can see that their children experienced the same outcomes. Being able to interact with their teachers outside of a school setting increased their comfort, resulting in them being more engaged as students.
“My advice to parents is to give the program a chance; just check it out,” Keith says. “Because it’s not about us, it’s about the kids.”
For more information on PTHVP, please contact the Office of Family and Community Engagement by phone (313)873-7490 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.