Parent engagement is one of the most crucial pieces of the puzzle when it comes to student success. However, it does take a bit to get in the groove when it comes to fostering that awesome parental involvement. Sometimes it can feel like it’s easier said than done when it comes to establishing great family relationships. If you can relate, you’ve landed in the right place! Here are 5 foolproof, easy tips for getting the great parent teacher relationships you’ve dreamed of!
#1: Rock Meet the Teacher
Starting off on the right foot with parents is number one in building that parent teacher relationship you want. This means it starts when you all first meet! Want to know the secret to completely rocking Meet the Teacher night?! Insert some sensational stations!
What are those you ask? It’s a great way to keep everyone busy, provide opportunities for your new students to get to know each other and their room, all while having a TON of fun. A few years back I switched to a station model for Meet the Teacher and I’ll never go back! It was SO helpful and diminished SO much stress for everyone. No longer were families sitting with nothing to do except fill out paperwork and waiting to talk with me. If you want to learn more secrets to a successful Meet the Teacher night, check out THIS post!
To build up some more anticipation and excitement for this notable night, I love to send out postcards. I mean, who doesn’t love getting mail- especially kids?! How special would your students feel getting a postcard from their brand new teacher whom they have yet to meet! They are a great way to help students feel welcome before even stepping foot into your classroom. These cards are easy to use and can be personalized for each student. As a subscriber, you can grab these super cute postcards for FREE!
#2: Communication is Key
I’m sure it’s no surprise that tip number two is about communication. All thriving relationships have good communication at its forefront and working with parents is no different. Establishing this takes work but here are some awesome reminders about how to make it happen!
First things first, be timely with your communication. If a parent reaches out to you, be courteous and respond within 24 hours. Even if you can’t give the response you’d like in that timeframe, at least reach out with a time you’ll be able to further communicate. Make sure parents and family members have adequate ways to contact you. I love sending THIS magnet home with students to stick on their fridge with all my contact information so it’s super easy to access.
Another great way to keep communication lines open is by using technology. I love using apps, such as Seesaw and Class Dojo for easily capturing in action class happenings. Parents can comment on pictures and events you share, as well as directly message you as needed. If you prefer to go old school and enjoy sending home paper communication pieces, using weekly folders is a great organizational tool. You can send them home weekly, filled with current classroom events, completed student work, newsletters, and so much more. When parents and guardians are up to date with what’s going on, it makes it that much easier when it comes to conference time. If you need some tips for conferences, read this post here!
When setting up good communication parameters, it’s important to talk about expectations you have for your students. Check out THIS flip book resource, that you can give to parents filled with information on technology, classroom expectations, school supplies, and homework, to name a few. When everyone knows what the expectations are, we can all hold each other accountable.
One last thing to note when it comes to communication is to always anticipate language barriers and what you will do to combat it. If you need to find other staff members who can help translate or help you learn about cultural norms to make sure your communication is received properly, do your due diligence. Students with families whose first language isn’t English already have so many obstacles, so helping bridge that gap will be beneficial to everyone.
#3: Celebrate the Positive
The world will always be better off with more positivity. Parents will want to speak to you more and be involved if they’re frequently hearing positive things about their child. Note that the first time parents hear from you that it should be a positive contact! Of course there will be times when you have to discuss things that are harder, but because you’ve already made those positive notes and phone calls home, it’ll be easier to receive. Creating a system for making 5 positive phone calls a week is a great way to ensure every student is receiving good feedback throughout the year.
#4: Involve Families
Tip number four is to not stop at simply speaking with parents regularly, but really INVOLVE them. Invite them into your classroom, allow them to support you, and get them to be excited to participate and connect with their children’s school community.
There are a few ways that you can involve families on campus. Open up your classroom to parent volunteers and have them help you out. Give them a classroom wish list for things that would benefit your students so they can support you all. You can even host workshops for parents for upcoming units if you expect students to struggle. Give them a little behind the scene lesson on what’s going to be coming up for their little learners so they can learn how to best support them at home. You can incentivize their participation in school events with raffle prizes. One thing I love to do is throw a learning celebration after we wrap up a unit. Students get to show off all their hard work, it helps build their communication and presentation skills, and it’s a great night for everyone to connect.
#5: Share Student Voices
This last tip connects back to the communication we talked about earlier. Parents take the time to read school communications when it features their own child. There are ways to amplify your students’ voices in the classroom by sharing their thoughts, ideas, and creations. To do this you can insert pictures of them in a newsletter (make sure you have picture permissions!) showing off some work. You can include a writing piece by a student, share quotes from class discussions, etc.
When kids know they could be featured in a classroom correspondence, and if parents know they may see their kid highlighted, they’ll be more likely to read what you send out. Students get a feeling of pride after being published for recognition and everyone feels good. Class dojo has a super nice feature where you can upload pictures to your classroom page to share what you guys are doing throughout the day. It’s nice because you can upload as often as you’d like and it’s a simple user-friendly app that parents can easily download and navigate. Then they can show off to their friends all the fun things their children are doing!
An Added Consideration
This is a little extra tip because I’m not sure it’s talked about enough. You will have some challenging parents and ones that seem to NEVER be reached. Challenging can mean a multitude of things, language barriers as we spoke about before, parent’s might have several time constraints, maybe they’ve had prior negative experiences with the school system so they have a negative attitude, the list could go on and on. For starters, don’t take any of this personally. If a parent is rude to you, always be professional and polite. Don’t be afraid to ask an additional staff member to be present during further communication so there is a third party. If it continues, be transparent with them and ask what could you do moving forward so the relationship is more healthy. If they continue to have a bad demeanor, and it affects your student’s behavior in class, ask for support from a behaviorist standpoint. If you’ve never spoken with a parent and you need to because you have concerns, ask the administration to reach out. Pretty much, utilize your resources and don’t feel you must deal with it alone.
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