Home Visits, Teacher Tours Connect Students and Teachers8/9/2023
It’s your new teacher!
In early August, many Wylie ISD elementary teachers visited their 2023-24 students at their homes. Several elementary campuses partake in teacher home visits to introduce teachers to their new students.
“Home visits are the best way to begin the school year with our families,” Kellye Morton, Smith Elementary Principal, said.
Smith established home visits in 2009 as a way to begin the teacher/student/family relationship in a special way.
“Meeting students at their homes allows the teacher to take their students a few goodies, and have a memorable first introduction to each other,” Morton said. “It’s just the one student and teacher, so this personal moment is extra special and memorable for everyone.”
Teachers reach out to parents to schedule their visits ahead of time. This quick porch visit is typically followed by hugs and a big greeting between the teacher and student.
“Home visits are always one of my favorite things to hear about as the teachers visit their new Bulldogs and create special memories,” Morton said.
Smith Elementary student Greyson Jackson was visited by his soon-to-be fourth-grade teachers, Brienne Wilkins and Tywana Reese.
“Greyson absolutely loves getting a visit from his teacher!” Greyson’s mom, Stephanie Jackson said. “He was so excited to meet them that he gave up an ice cream party at his summer camp just so he could be home in time to meet his new teachers! After they left he couldn’t wait to open his goody bag and he seemed even more excited for day one of fourth grade.”
Smith Kindergarten teacher Brandi Orr visited Cooper Peri at his home.
“We give them a Smith Bulldog shirt for the year (along with a few goodies), and he had to put it on for the picture,” Orr said. “It was so fun! I love home visits! It sets such a positive tone for the year.”
Over at Tibbals, fourth-grade teacher Austin Cooper said that going to the student provides the family with uninterrupted teacher access.
“It is amazing what we can learn about them in just a quick five-minute interaction.”
Going to students’ homes and meeting them at their front doors builds relationships before the school year even begins.
“It's one thing to meet a student on Meet the Teacher night, but it is difficult to provide each family with the level of time and focus that you get to achieve through a home visit,” Cooper said. “For me, it goes back to building those relationships with families as a community.”
On one of his home visits, Cooper and fellow fourth-grade teacher Ashley McKethan met with a family who had just moved here from New York.
“Imagine that family walking into our school without knowing anyone or even knowing who to ask to find their child's classroom,” Cooper said. “We were able to meet with that family and ease their nerves about the first day. It is these types of interactions that keep us doing home visits each year.”
Elementary teachers are not required to conduct home visits but many of them do.
“[Teachers] hear the stories about home visits and know the benefits and all commit to doing this for their students,” Morton said.
This is second-grade teacher Brittany Beltran’s fifth year teaching at Smith Elementary and she loves the school’s tradition of home visits.
“You aren't just building a relationship with the students, but their guardians as well,” Beltran said. “We are all a team and one way to set a student up for success is through these relationships. Many times, the students have precious pictures that they have drawn, little goodie bags, or just really big hugs!”
This year, Beltran visited the home of a student who had a sibling she previously taught. The home visit allowed her to catch up with her former student while also getting to know her new student.
“It goes back to building those relationships,” Beltran said. “It's not just ‘you were my student,’ it's that you will ALWAYS be one of my students.”
Home visits aren’t the only way the teachers are getting out and meeting their students before school begins.
During COVID, Watkins Elementary replaced their home visits with a teacher tour and chose to continue with this method of introduction.
“We actually got the idea of the teacher tour from Birmingham,” Watkins Principal Jennifer Wiseman said.
Teachers and principals load up on school buses and travel to different neighborhoods in the campus’ attendance zone to connect educators with their Wrangler families. This allows families to choose the meet and greet most suitable for them.
Meeting at public stops has been a time saver for the Wranglers, but still allows plenty of time for teachers to interact with their students and families.
“It used to take two to three days for teachers to see all of their students at their houses, especially the older grade levels that could have up to 44 students,” Wiseman said. “The Wrangler teachers and families love the teacher tour. The staff feels like rock stars when they get off the bus and everyone is waiting to meet them.”
Watkins third-grade teacher Ginny Coleman looks forward to the teacher tour every year.
“No matter how hot we are or how tired we are, we step off of that bus with smiles on our faces,” Coleman said. “We do it because we as a staff are a family and want the students and their families to be a part of it as well. Seeing the kids smiling faces and excitement when we get off the bus is well worth the time and the heat!”
Morton and Wiseman encourage all elementary schools to take part in teacher home visits or teacher tours.
“It is worth the time and effort put into this process for the countless smiles and joy you bring to your new students for the year,” Morton said.