As teachers, we work with a very precious resource – someone else’s child. Part of what makes the job of teaching so complex is the difficulty of working with the varieties of personalities, home-lives and backgrounds that end up in front of us each day. These children that are entrusted to us have parents or guardians that desire their success as well. Establishing a good relationship with the adults in their life is essential to well-rounded teaching.
Here are 4 tips for working with parents:
- Remember that parents are advocates for their children –. Expect that parents are going to ask questions and start out assuming the best about their children. That is a good thing. We want parents to love and care about their children. We want them to fully understand every situation we might be contacting them about. Make sure you don’t get defensive or upset about a parent doing the exact thing we would hope for – making sure their child is being treated well and fairly. Remember to reinforce the things that make their child special and unique to you as well. Parents are more likely to listen to you once they know that you generally care about their child and his or her success.
- Make phone calls home. This can be a challenge depending on a parent’s work schedule, but often times a conversation done over the phone rather than via email is beneficial. The tone and mood of an email can easily be misunderstood. When an issue arises that needs to be discussed with a parent, pick up the phone when at all possible. Remember that a phone call home for something positive is just as important as the phone calls to discuss concerns or problems.
- Use technology to help keep parents informed about what is happening in your classroom. In an earlier blog post, I mentioned having a classroom blog that is written by the students. This can be daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or whatever works for the structure of your classroom. Tools like this can help parents feel part of your everyday work. It can also give them a way to feel more involved and be able to ask their children questions beyond, “How was school today?” An online homework calendar is also a useful resource for parents and students. It can be useful for students who stay home sick, parents who are trying to help their students stay successful, and students who can’t remember the homework assignment. Additionally, tools such as our Big Universe cloud-based literacy platform, which can be accessed 24/7 from anywhere will allow the parent to see student assignments and progress as well.
- Take advantage of parents as classroom volunteers. A lot of us have a specific way that we like activities done in our classroom. Our desire to have control of the learning environment can make it difficult to accept and utilize parent help. Having parents contribute to what happens in the classroom can be a fantastic way to build a sense of community, get some much-needed extra help, and allow us to continue to change and grow as teachers. It is also a good way to build a team of parent advocates who support what happens in our classrooms.
The best thing about working with parents is that we all have the same goal: successful children. When we are able to work well with parents, we are better able to work with their children.