If you have ever been confronted by an angry parent, you know the importance of good parent-teacher communication. This usually occurs at report card time when their child brings home grades that are unexpected. Communication between parents and teachers is one of the main ingredients in a successful classroom. Yet many teachers are so caught up in day-to-day chores that they neglect this very important part of teaching. They may think that there is no time to write long newsletters, or be nervous and not know what to say. If a parent does not hear from the teacher until the child brings home a failing grade, no wonder we have angry parents, and we are missing a key ingredient for student success.
Parents can support and reinforce what the child learns at school, or they can undermine the lessons we are trying to teach. Many times, we can create a barrier between home and school without realizing it. When a parent feels “out of the loop,” they can be anxious or angry, and often convey that negative attitude to their child. Parents can help and support us in the classroom if we keep them informed.
Students need to know that they will be accountable, and that their parents expect them to do their best. When the students are not intrinsically motivated, a parent, who is monitoring their progress, can provide the external motivation that is needed.
Keeping up with parent communication does not have to be hard, here are some tips for helping parents become part of the team.
Make a Good First Impression
You should make your first communication positive. One way to do this is to send a “welcome” note on the first day of school. Another is the “Open House” or “Meet the Teacher” where students can pick up their schedule and see their classroom. This is an opportunity to make a good first impression. You should also get the parents’ email and phone numbers so that you can implement the next part of your plan.
Build Your Database
You want to have all parent emails in one file, so it is easy to send a quick email. You should also put parent numbers in your phone for quick text messages. Until I started putting numbers in my phone, I would have to stop a lesson and take time to look up a phone number or email. When you have to search for the information, it is easy to give up and threaten, “Next time this happens, I will call your mother.” The child quickly learns that they can get away with things in your classroom. But if you have mom on “speed dial,” it is very simple to text a message while still carrying on with the lesson. It is amazing what can happen when the students know you will follow through on your promise to “call mom.” Of course also use text messages and quick calls to tell parents about the great things their child is doing. This is especially true for some of the more difficult children. If we only contact them about negative things, parents can become defensive. And, if you’ve had great, positive communication all along, it makes it so much easier to bring up the areas their child struggles in.
Have a Welcoming Atmosphere
Your classroom should feel like home, and parents should feel welcome to come any time. Often parents have had bad experiences, either in their own school career or at a previous school. They may need some encouragement to come. One teacher I know had a breakfast for the class during Christmas. The parents brought food, but also stayed to eat with the students. It was a very pleasant time for parents and children to get to know one another. You don’t have to have a big breakfast, but stop and take a few minutes to talk when parents come. You can invite parents to read to an elementary class, or share their job experience with a middle school class.
Maintain Regular Communication
Now that you have established a positive parent teacher relationship, don’t let it die. Ongoing communication is very important, especially for students who need that outside influence to do their best and for students with special needs. There are several ways to make this easier.
1. Weekly Newsletters:
A newsletter can be very simple. It can be a half page with homework, holidays, and the major topics you are covering that week. Many parents have told me they post the weekly newsletter on the refrigerator and appreciate having class information in one place. Newsletters can also be emailed and posted on teacher websites.
2. Student Agendas:
Some schools are using student agendas, or calendars. Take advantage of this and have the students write their homework assignments every day. This can be part of morning work and can be monitored by peer helpers to save you time. It is also a convenient place to write a quick note to the parent periodically. You can write about a good grade on a test, how well their child handled a situation in class, or a pass along a “shout out” from another teacher.
There are many technology solutions available such as “Remind 101,” a phone app that sends group texts from the teacher, and “Edmodo,” an online classroom community group where you can post assignments and announcements. There are many more, just do an online search to find your favorite.
We want our students to be successful and reach their potential. If we reach out to parents, they can be our strongest ally in this task of educating our students. After all, who knows their child better than they do?
Please let me know of ways that you have found to communicate with your parents.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/52691653@N07/8048241215″>_D3N1058_fix_6x4_b</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>(license)</a>