Managing Parent Expectations in Challenging Times

by Dr. Elise Matson-Dite

“How precious is the family, as the privileged place for transmitting the faith” – Pope Francis.

Catholic schools were given a unique opportunity to shine during the pandemic. Many schools welcomed students in person with robust safety measures ensuring students were able to learn in person. However, in order to launch in person learning successfully, schools needed to effectively communicate with parents, students, teachers and staff to make sure everyone received updates on important safety measures. The need for additional, frequent communication continues into this year when many safety measures are still in place in schools.

The webinar linked below provides school principals with practical ideas on how they can clearly communicate with school stakeholders to continue to instill trust in the community. Dr. Molly Cinnamon, principal at Pope John XXIII in Evanston, IL and Dr. Elise Matson Dite, Chief Learning Officer for The Procedo Project, discussed ways Catholic school leaders can build a culture of family and faith while engaging parents and faculty and staff in the life of the community.

During the webinar, viewers can learn how to create a family culture in a Catholic school, tips to engage parents, and hear ideas on how to foster an environment of family and connectedness in times of crisis. Building a culture of faith, fun and positivity will help everyone in the community feel a sense of connectedness and belonging, no matter what crisis or or events occur.


By Valarie Pearce, Director of Content Development- Friendzy 

Cultivate a working relationship and partnership with parents and families to strengthen community, student success, and academic outcomes.

There are many avenues for student success and academic achievement within the educational framework; however none are as effective, tried, and true as the gold standard, parent engagement.

As a working definition, parent engagement can be defined as, “a good flow of communication between school and home. A communication that encompasses every stakeholder: including parents, teachers, administrators, specialists, club leaders and coaches, and the parent-teacher organization.” (Getting Smart, 2019).  

Parent engagement in addition to one of the SEL core competencies, relationship building, is synonymous with student success.  When we hear the word relationship as it relates to the classroom, it is often seen as a cover for lack of authority or inability to manage the classroom successfully.  However, according to educator James E. Ford, “the relational part of teaching may very well be its most underrated aspect.” 

“The relational part of teaching may very well be its most underrated aspect.”

– James E. Ford

When students enter the classroom they are not blank slates.  They enter with beliefs, values, customs and ways of making meaning that are directly in line with their homes.

The ability to reach out, establish and maintain healthy relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals is key to parent engagement. 

A certain foundation has to be laid before true learning can take place. The ability to reach out, establish and maintain healthy relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals is key to parent engagement.  This foundation builds parent connection, establishes trust, fosters rapport, makes for positive student attitude, and reaps academic benefits.

Here are four tools you can employ to begin engaging parents:



Communicate early.  At the beginning of the school year introduce yourself by dropping a paper in their backpacks, email, text, or phone call, or maybe all three.  It not only lets parents know right away you’re accessible but you’re also willing to use diverse communication methods in order to connect.

Learn More about Managing Parent Expectations >>

Communicate often.  Let parents know all the great things that are going on in your classroom and the school.  Brag a little!  This keeps them in the know and allows them to feel connected with what is going on.

Quick Tips:

  • Introduce yourself through a paper newsletter, email, or text/phone call.
  • Take the time to brag about your student’s achievements.



Communicate positively. Let parents know when their child has had a big moment in class or a great day overall. This positivity builds excitement for how their child is doing as well as trust that they won’t only hear from you when things are tough.

Communicate a sense of welcome. Invite parents into the classroom.  Literally. Just say, “Come on in!”. Some may feel shy or may not have had relationships with previous teachers. The ability to be a class art docent, provide snacks, or classroom supplies always gives parents a sense of involvement and connection. But also note just as family make-ups are diverse, so are family schedules. Some of your families may work during the school hours. Finding additional ways they can support and feel a part is key.

Quick Tips:

  • Make sure not all communication with parents is when a student needs support. Share when a student has a great day!
  • Invite parents/caring adults into the classroom.



Not only in race and culture, but also family make-up of your students.  Each of your student’s homes will be unique with its own features including work schedules and support networks. When you have a question or concern you may be speaking with a care-giver who is not your student’s parent, but an extended support unit for the student. These will be valuable class supports for field trips, special class projects, and fundraising as well.

Quick Tips:

  • Remember: the home environments and cultures of every student are unique.
  • Support networks may include caring adults who are not your student’s parent.



It’s important to note that parents are preeminent stakeholders in their children’s education. They are experts as well in the joys, attitudes, and predispositions of their children. Operating from a lens of mutuality transforms parent engagement to partnership. This is where the real “wins for all” takes place.

It’s important to see parents as a wealth of knowledge and mutual partners in co-creating the best learning environments and outcomes for their children and, “When parents, teachers and students work together, they form a powerful connection between home and school—a partnership that can change a child’s life.” (National Heritage Academics, 2016).

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5 Ways to Build Student Executive Function in your Back to School Routines

As a busy parent, juggling school physicals, uniform shopping, haircuts and reprogramming sleep cycles over the next couple of weeks, it has me thinking about of those new school year resolutions I always make and never keep past October, like making the boys eat a good breakfast, kids making their own lunches and daily checks of the school website.  My own executive function has suffered during the pandemic and despite the new stressors around returning to campus after 18 months of virtual and hybrid schooling, I am looking forward to having a routine again (even though it involves a commute).  I have a 9th grader and an 11th grader, and boy have we gotten lax about routines in the last year.  Summer was a welcome reprieve from responsibilities, but now we are in it to win it!

Executive function isn’t fully developed until around age 30 and it is not one single skill, but components of cognitive function.  Depending on where a child is on the journey, they may be further ahead in some areas, while still developing in others.  Taking time to build and practice some executive function habits and skills into our early routines in the school year can help set kids up for success for this year and for life!  Over 90% of students with ADHD struggle with executive function, so simple supports ingrained into classroom habits can help all students succeed while building lifelong executive function skills.  Here are 5 ways to build executive function into your classroom routines to ease the transition back to campus and save yourself headaches later in the year.

Redundant Instructions

Say them, post them on your website, make sure they are in the assignment instructions and repeat them in the rubric.  It sounds like overkill, but when you think about how much time you spend repeating yourself, you will actually be saving time and sanity in the long run.  Over time your students will know that if they didn’t get it the first time, there are always other places to look.  This can also help reduce anxiety for students and parents who struggle to keep up with what is going on in the classroom.

Practice Routine Reminders

The first few weeks of school are full of routines and procedures.  Students are learning where they have to be, what materials they need and possibly navigating a new campus like my freshman will be doing.  It takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic so practice is essential.  Secondary students are juggling 7 instructors’ preferences and routines and even elementary students often have to circulate to different classrooms and teachers.  “Rules have consequences and routines have reminders.”  Realize that some students may pick up your routines quickly while others will take longer and need more practice until the behavior sticks.  Avoid negative consequences for mistakes in favor of reinforcements and reminders.

Empower Choice of Tools

Some people I know love project management software, some write down checklists.  Personally, I live and die by my calendar.  Different things work for different people.  As long as a student has a system and it is working for them we should empower them to use it.  Provide a structure for staying organized in and out of class, but allow for some variation as long as students are successful.  High stakes notebook checks that only measure organizational skills are not measuring content mastery. Think about how you can help students build wins and confidence in their ability to manage multiple responsibilities and tasks in a way that works for them.

Destigmatize Questions

How often do we ask students if they have questions, get no response and then get asked the same question multiple times?  It is not because they were all willfully not listening, but likely they didn’t feel confident enough to ask a question aloud.  Consider building in a thinking time of 60-90 seconds after giving instructions before anyone can begin.  This will make space for students to process instructions, reread them and get clarification without feeling like a nuisance.  It will also remind them that asking questions is part of taking ownership of their learning and is an appropriate behavior.

Built In Assignment Breaks

I mean this literally and figuratively.  Take long term projects and break them into smaller deadlines and goals so they are not overwhelming.  Better yet, have students practice sectioning big projects into smaller manageable deadlines, making their own accountability plan when possible.  Additionally, don’t forget the importance of students getting out of their seat and moving around.  If the class is not connecting with a lesson or seems lost, take 30 seconds to stand up, stretch, jump up and down or get the blood flowing in a different way so they can reset and retry.  

Executive function can be just as important a predictor of academic success as IQ.  Lead with compassion and patience as you jump into the new year with routines, rules and procedures.  Sometimes we have to go slow at first to go fast later.  Take time to reinforce, remind and practice to help build resilience and empower students to take responsibility for their executive function skills.  Most importantly, don’t forget to celebrate successes, particularly with those who struggle the most.

The Procedo Project Origin Story

The Procedo Project has been a long-time coming in concept.  For several years, I enjoyed a collegial relationship with Eduscape CEO, Alex Urrea, via the partnership we created between ISTE and the National Catholic Educational Association.  Together, we established cohorts of Catholic educators around the country to offer them ISTE certification at a reduced rate.  We were both excited and proud of this work to build capacity among Catholic educators long term.  We also both recognized there was so much more we could do.  


Many of my passion projects over the years organically became related to rethinking established methodology, offerings and mindsets.  I was blessed to be able to build a national webinar program, author micro-credentials, be a thought-leader in the digital discipleship movement, create new relationships with national organizations, advance the Edcamp movement in Catholic schools and connect with the amazing colleagues that engage in the #CatholicEdChat.  These have all been such life-giving experiences, that have helped me grow as much as I have contributed to the field.  When coming across other like-minded colleagues that believe in Catholic education, it invigorates me because I see so much possibility just within grasp.  So it was only natural that Alex Urrea and I became fast friends.


When the pandemic hit early last year so many events were canceled and organizations had to make difficult decisions to downsize staff. Eduscape pivoted into high gear, quickly offering free webinars and support to help educators adapt to hybrid and remote teaching.  As we saw the response from educators, Alex said to me, “It’s time to do this. We have to help these Catholic schools be successful and I want you to lead it.”  That was the birth of The Procedo Project and I am humbled by the faith he put in me as Chief Learning Officer.  Together we from the ground up while providing triage to educators who need us during COVID.  The Procedo Project started simply as the Catholic schools division of Eduscape, but we are proud to now stand as a non-profit 501 (c)3 under the Rethink Learning Foundation.  Eduscape will continue to be an involved partner in the work of The Procedo Project.


We did not know what the response would be for The Procedo Project when we started.  We have been humbled by the response from schools, dioceses, organizations, publishers and education companies immediately excited to work with us.  We have accomplished a lot in a short time. Our goal is both simple and complex. We want to help Catholic schools and ministries be successful, relevant and self-sustaining.  We want to elevate practice and make a difference.  How we do this will take many forms and will continue to evolve.  Our first big initiatives will be launching the Forefront 2021 Virtual Summit as well as a Global Catholic Educator Community via  We ask you to join this free network to connect with educators all over the world to elevate Catholic education.  As a thank you, you will receive a discounted rate should you choose to join us for our inaugural virtual summit.

Watch us grow, pray for us and join us.  We have a lot of work to do and big things ahead!