As a new principal, one of the first encounters I had was an angry parent. The parent entered the school office, visibly upset, and demanded to speak to the principal. I invited her into my office to get to the heart of the matter, once calmed down, she informed me that one of my teachers had failed to communicate a concern regarding her child. Our student had gone home to tell their parent they were upset with their teacher and had continued to go unresolved. I knew immediately that this required immediate change. As the meeting wrapped up, the first line of action I took was to inform my teachers the importance of early communication with students and their parents. This is the key to building stronger and positive relationships. We made a commitment as a staff to communicate promptly and with integrity to our students and their parents to avoid any miscommunication that lies down the road.
Let’s look at three tips that we used to work positively with parents:
1) Start with (positive) Personalized Communication
It's important to put in the effort and communicate early to student parents, and here's the tip, begin with positive news! Teachers often only deliver bad news when they communicate with parents. Try this, at the beginning of the year, design a general template letter or email starting off with "Dear Mr./Mrs. Jones, I really enjoyed meeting Sandy, who is bright and an amazing artist." Keep the message personalized by adding another sentence or two, to ensure that the first few lines of communication with the parent from you as a teacher are positive and welcoming! Include information the parent should know: links to your school's website, class website, contact information, homework tips, hours of availability, required school supplies, and upcoming important dates. Conclude your email with a call to action that asks parents to schedule a one-on-one for additional help and tips so that students optimize their overall in-class experience. Consider using video to introduce yourself to parents so they build a sense of familiarity and trust with you.
2) Seek the Best Method for Communication
We live in a very busy world! Nevertheless, this isn't an excuse for not reaching out to our parent community. Communication is key to your success as a teacher. (Keep in mind that you might need translation support!) Ask parents for their preferred method of communication that fits their schedule. Is it e-mail, text message, a short note or letter sent home? Sending an email or text message that contains news, photos and assignments make for quicker and easier communication. Parents work well and appreciate integrating free programs like Remind.com if you want to go the extra mile. Many parents spend a lot of time working and may not have a chance to even meet you face-to-face. Consider creating a private Facebook page or Twitter account where parents can check for regular classroom updates. And remember, when you give parents options, you'll see how much they'll appreciate your commitment to ensuring their kids optimize their learning experience.
3) Make Parents a Part of the Team
It’s important to “invite parents in” to be present in their child’s educational growth and success. It’s also important to show parents that you appreciate them. Ask them for their input! What do they think of the curriculum being studied? I’ve had parents in the past suggest activities for school projects, field trips, and classroom projects before and you’ll be surprised at the many great ideas!
Then, consider inviting parents to volunteer and help! Host a parent workshop in your classroom or collaborate with a colleague to do it! Show them what classroom activities you’re working on with their kids in a personable setting. I know, this takes time…but, parents will get to know you better and feel more grateful for going the extra mile.
Whether it’s decorating a bulletin board, gathering/organizing fundraisers, becoming a guest reader or speaker, there are many opportunities to get them involved! Making parents our partners can be a challenge, especially for new teachers. Be proactive with your parent community and reach out! Remember, just like students, parents need to feel valued and involved. They are their child’s first teacher.
We’d love to read your thoughts. How do you reach out to your parent community? Leave us a comment and tell us how you work positively with parents!