As an elementary teacher, I remember edit my essay and receiving one hostile letter from a parent who felt they were ignored during back to school night. However, since then, I’ve been relatively successful with my students’ parents. While I don’t need everyone to like me, I try my best to forge a good rapport with my students’ guardians. Here are seven ways I have learned to encourage a positive relationship with parents.
I recall the time I witnessed a former student’s parent screaming at a colleague. Considering I only had positive interactions with this parent, I was confused. Then, I learned of the problem: the teacher had made the first contact a negative one. It’s never good to wait for a child to be “in trouble” before calling or emailing a parent.
Over the years, I’ve learned that a smile goes a long way. In addition, try to establish some sort of contact with your parents as soon as possible. Back to school night is a great opportunity to connect. Offer some refreshments, keep the agenda light and make sure to meet all of the parents in attendance. Let them know that the parent and teacher relationship is a partnership designed to help kids receive the best education possible.
Often times, if a child is happy, then the parents will be happy. While I have always run a “tight ship” in my classroom, I also try to plan fun lessons and have a good attitude. If you are invested in your students and like kids, this will shine through in your teaching.
Once, I had a parent burst into my room because she was upset her son was marked tardy. Although he was definitely late, I wondered if perhaps the standard of being on time was not properly enforced. Often times, conflict occurs because students and/or parents were not clear on an expectation. This could be an assignment, a field trip or even a change in the schedule. Thus, during the first week of school, it’s important that both parents and kids are aware of school and classroom policies. With strong rules, consequences and procedures, students will know what to expect from you and what you expect of them.
Sometimes, it’s hard for teachers to change their policies. However, while I don’t believe in bending over backwards for people, I do believe in being flexible. This may mean modifying a homework assignment, providing more challenge work or moving a student’s seat.
At some point in the year, many of your students might have academic or emotional issues. However, when talking to parents choose your words wisely. The word talkative is much better word than telling parents their child “talks too much.”
I’ve often worked at school where parents didn’t have a computer or email. For some teachers, communication is easier. Simply establish a website and email list to communicate homework, events and important news. If you don’t have this luxury, pick up the phone or send out newsletters. If there is a language barrier, seek out an interpreter to ease the exchange of information. Overall, a good relationship with parents allows my school year to go much more smoothly.