Note: This is the second article in a three-part series on preparing for back to school. Last week, we discussed the 3-step to-do list for teachers to follow and next week, we’ll talk about creating a healthy classroom community.
Last week’s column was about getting yourself organized for the school year. Now, let’s focus on tips to remember when building school-home connections, which I’ll represent by using the STAR acronym. These relationships are critical to ensuring a child’s success each academic year, and no matter the context or barriers faced by the families or teachers themselves, all involved generally want the student to improve academically and personally. This is especially great for new teachers to remember as they’re trying to establish themselves professionally, but seasoned teachers can also benefit from remembering or sharing these four simple tips.
Simple. No need to make a 10-page newsletter each week or a long video showing everything happening in the week. Concise messages or flyers with room for interacting with the class and teacher help to bridge the gap. If you have capabilities of publishing documents in a child’s native language, that helps as well. Inviting parents to share something that is important to them (culture, career, talent) are all easy things you can do to strengthen the bond.
Triangulate. Technology makes this so much easier these days because many systems sync with other popular outreaches. Automated text messages, video sharing platforms, and social media with tools to privatize access are popular ways to connect with parents, but some still prefer the flyers and phone calls. Try to cover as many bases as possible for supporting yourself professionally and for maximizing awareness about the event, conferences, or concerns you need to address. I always tend to do a written, verbal, and electronic notification method when planning ahead for future events. For pertinent issues, verbal contact followed by an electronic notification helps me keep track with when contact is made.
Authentic. Not only must you be true to yourself but also respectful of the various dynamics your students and their families have. Caregivers and students can sense your commitment level to them as well as your confidence in your training and experiences, so just be honest and transparent while maintaining a professional rapport with them. Every word, letter/email sent, and learning experience created reflects you as an educator. It’s easier to connect with something that’s authentic, even if it’s completely different from prior experiences. One teacher may do handwritten notes each week while another teacher sends text messages or does routine home visits.
Recurring. Cultivating school-home connections aren’t just limited to the start of school, during conferences, and when something goes wrong. Keep in touch with parents regularly throughout the year by phone calls, emails, newsletters, and volunteering opportunities. Even busy parents can read a story or donate an item to help out in the classroom. Make them feel as if they belong and are an equal partner in the learning process because they truly are.
What do you keep in mind as you’re trying to decide how to reach out to your student’s families? Share your experiences below.