The average week of a teacher is packed with instructional time, supervisory time, meetings, events, planning, evaluation, reflection, and communication. With so much to accomplish in such a short time period, it’s tough to carve out the time needed to engage with the parents of your students in a consistently meaningful and effective way.
Engaged parents are essential to student success. A good relationship between parent and teacher bolsters the student’s positive school experience.
In order to make communication with parents consistently positive and maximally beneficial, teachers don’t have to spend hours crafting perfect emails. Here are just a few ideas to help get the parent communication in your classroom off to a great start:
Parents often feel out of place and uncomfortable in school. This may be due to their own history in school, or just because they don’t know about the daily routines. Parents are nervous about contradicting the teacher, or saying something that may reflect poorly on them or their child.
A smile will negate those feelings. Simply open your classroom door with a smile and a friendly greeting each morning. This gesture will surely help to establish a trusting relationship with parents.
When teachers ask parents and caregivers questions, it demonstrates caring and empathy. Ask what the student likes best and what s/he doesn’t prefer. Ask about the home life of the student - who they live with and if they travel between the parents’ homes, inquire about the schedule. Ask about cultural or religious traditions that you are unfamiliar with.
Asking questions is how we get to know the families with whom we work, and when a child is known, it will foster a sense of belonging at school for the whole family.
Lead with the positive.
A positive comment is like an invitation to a conversation. Show the parent that you appreciate their child before launching into a discussion of the areas for improvement. Even the most challenging of students have positive attributes. Find them and share them. The best comments are paired with an anecdotal evidence. Parents love to hear stories about their kids doing well in school.
Even in the most challenging of conferences or phone calls, recognizing the child’s positive qualities allows parents and teachers to relax a bit before discussing concerns and questions. This technique reminds parents that you are allied with them in support of the child and helps to prevent a defensive reaction.
Consider what is outside of the child’s control.
You may be frustrated and feel like you are at the end of your rope with a particular student. Before you call the parent, consider the behaviors that you see and what may be outside of the child’s control.
There is not a child on the planet who wants to get in constant trouble at school or struggle to read along with the class. What you are seeing may be signs of an issue that the child has no control over.
Adults tend to give kids far too much credit in their ability to control their bodies and ask for help in learning. They need an adult in their lives to recognize for them what is most difficult and take steps to intervene, either with a new strategy or perhaps even professional assistance. Empathize before you criticize.
Clear, positive communication between teachers and parents is increasingly important in today’s turbulent times. It’s also increasingly easy given the quantity of technological communication tools.
Make the investment of opening yourself up to good communication with parents from the first day of school and it will pay off for the whole school year.