I’ve been seeing a lot of social media posts lately about the importance of building relationships with students. I definitely agree that relationships come first and teaching comes second.
Recently, I’ve also been thinking about how important it is that we build relationships with our students’ parents. I truly believe that teachers and parents are partners in a child’s education. I’ve been fortunate enough to teach many sets of siblings, and getting to know them and their parents as a family has been really amazing. And I know that putting in the time to build that relationship benefits all of us.
Below, I’ll share some quick tips to develop a positive relationship with parents and guardians.
Introduce yourself. No brainer, right? As soon as you get your class list, you can start reaching out to parents and students. One nice thing to do, especially if it will be a few weeks until Back to School Night, is contact them by email, phone, letter, or postcard before school begins. You can share a little about your teaching background, your personal and professional interests, and how much you’re looking forward to their child being in your classroom this year.
Be a communicator. I prefer letting parents know up front how I’ll communicate with them (email, newsletter, website, etc.) – and how they can get in touch with me. An open door policy goes a long way, but I think it’s also fine to set some boundaries (like not giving out your personal phone number or not answering emails on weekends). Just let them know what to expect from the start. And share helpful, timely information with them! [Along with a weekly newsletter, I also like to send handwritten, personalized notes home a couple times throughout the year.]
Make your priorities clear. Parents and guardians want to know that you care about their child. That should come first before asking for volunteers or donations of items on your back-to-school wishlist. If you establish that your priority is getting to know and teaching their child, they’ll feel comfortable that they’re leaving their child in good hands.
Call home the first week. This is a super easy way to hit all the above suggestions and start building that partnership between school and home. I like to make 4 or 5 calls a day so it’s not overwhelming. I usually tell parents about what we’re doing those first few days, share an anecdote about their child, and give them an opportunity to ask questions.
Be proactive. I find it best to address concerns well before the issue escalates. You can set up a parent-teacher meeting so that everyone can work together to form a plan. If you’re a new teacher, I recommend practicing how to discuss your observations without judgment and making sure that you have some resources ready to share.
Be prepared at parent teacher conferences. There are sooo many ways to conduct these. However you run yours, be sure to include both “glows” and “grows” and leave the conference on a positive note. If either you or the students’ parents have personal or academic concerns, you’ll want to decide on clear next steps before the meeting ends.
Listen. Another obvious one, but it needs to be said. We may be the experts in the classroom, but parents are the experts on their kids. Give them a chance to participate in the conversation so that you’re really working together. [Parent surveys are a great way to allow parents to share information about their kids!]
Follow through. Start strong and finish strong! If you set up a behavior plan during a parent-teacher conference, make sure you stick it. Let parents know that you’re committed to their child’s education through that last day of school and beyond.
Offer opportunities to participate. Even parents who work full-time jobs want to be a part of the classroom when they can. Inviting parents to be involved is such an easy way to make them feel welcome! Think beyond volunteers to having parents come in as guest speakers, participate in Career Day, attend author’s celebrations, etc.
Be inclusive. I’m using the term “parents” here, but when addressing families, I try to be mindful of diverse situations and backgrounds. Parents, guardians, families, whatever term you use, I’d check if it makes all feel welcome.
Wow, that turned out to be a pretty long list! I hope you found some good reminders here, or even some new ideas, that will help you get started building parent-teacher relationships on Day 1.