A parent came in this school year and shared with me all the wonderful things that her son had worked on this summer and how she was still concerned about his progress. I assured her we could meet and work on some more strategies that she could continue to do with him at home and how we would continue to support him at school. She turned to me and said with a smile “I trust you with him, Ms. Smith.”
Those words meant so much to me being both a parent and educator. I understand how comforting it is to be able to trust someone with your child when you are not present all day. In that moment, I realized just how important it is to establish communication and build relationships with parents because it is an essential component in how we are successful when working with our students.
Recently, my school had its Back to School Night. I love this time of the year as it creates an opportunity for me to meet with parents and share with them all the things the students will learn this school year and how I plan to support the students through their learning process. This is also a time to facilitate the first line of communication with parents and begin the groundwork for building our relationship.
I like to share with them that I am not only there to be a support to the student but to also support them as well and have them understand that we are a team in achieving the best possible outcome for their child. Here are a few things I’ve learned in getting my parent relationships off to a good start:
- Use Multiple Modes of Communication: Communication in a lower socio-economic environment can be very tricky and I have had to be very creative. My parents work long hours, so I have to be willing to contact parents by phone, email, in person or even through written notes or communication logs. Be sure that your positive communication outweighs the negative ones. Communicate regularly!
- Make Yourself Available: Just like in college your professor had office hours so that you would have time to meet to discuss concerns or get extra help if you needed. Set times when you can be available and post them so that parents can have the opportunity to plan to meet with you about their child. It takes some of the stress out of scheduling meetings by arranging office hours. This year I am trying a combination of morning and evening times for parents.
- Create A Parent Resource Board: In my classroom, I create a small board that provides parents with a variety of resources that include tips on preparing for IEP meetings, tutoring opportunities, support groups and more. This allows the parents to have access to local support systems and create community connections to available resources.
- Create A Newsletter: This year as a department we created a newsletter, similar to the parent resource board, which provides strategies and tips. We also use it to share information about the latest changes in school and to highlight student achievements and activities in our classrooms.
- Be Honest and Document: Always, be honest with parents and be sure you document all communication, incidents, progress reports and more. Documentation is a huge part of our job — it keeps parents happy and informed about their student.
How do you build positive parent-teacher partnerships? I look forward to reading your feedback!