Build Parent Relationships

The children we teach are our first priority in our classroom.  However, sometimes we forget exactly how important building parent relationships are to student development.  Let's explore how to build parent relationships from your first meeting with parents, paving the road ahead for a year of success for your students.

I remember when I first started teaching, and how terrified I was to talk to parents!  Hopefully, you are nothing like me in this area.  I really don't know why I was so afraid of parents.  I had nothing to hide; I love teaching their kids, and I love talking with other adults.  So I had no reason to fear talking to parents.  I had heard stories from other teachers that made parents sound awful at times.  The thought of a parent deciding I didn't have their child's best interest at heart, when I knew I did, just really caused me anxiety.  It took me 10 years to get over this fear, and truthfully, it still causes some anxiety, but it's much more bearable.

So the question is, how do you build that relationship with parents?  How do you convey to them that you care, and how do you show them you are competent?  As a teacher, you have to realize that parents are sending you their best and most prized children.  You are entrusted with teaching their babies.  It is important for them to know this really matters to you, and that you care and take the job seriously.  There are things you can do to convey this without saying a word.  Let's look at what some of those things are.

First impressions are EVERYTHING!  In my experience, this is true in everything in life.  When you have your Meet the Teacher, open house, or first day of school, be as ready as possible.  This means you need to talk to your team and find out what they are doing.  The worst feeling ever on Meet the Teacher day is finding out that all of your team has a packet or handout of some kind, and you only have a welcome letter or postcard.  You don't have to do everything identical to them by any means, but it is good to be aware of what the expectation is on your campus.

Also, you want to dress the part for Meet the Teacher.  Again, ask your team or a colleague what the expectation is.  You may have school shirts and jeans, or it may be professional dress.  I try really hard the first time when meeting parents to dress professionally, and remember that I may meet grandparents or parents with different views than me on what is professional.  This means I stay away from sleeveless (even though its stinkin' hot in Texas in August), I make sure my top doesn't dip too low when I bend over, it isn't too tight, and make sure that the skirt isn't too short.  You don't have to be as conservative, though you still need to dress professionally, as the year progresses.  Meet the Teacher and the First Day of School are days you want to be extra careful.  Depending on where you teach, in higher income areas you may want to look more professional and in lower income areas, you want to look professional, yet still approachable.

Beyond how you dress, you need to wear a smile!  For me, my nerves get in the way and I tend to "over smile" which works in my favor.  If you aren't a "smile" person, you may want to practice this and how you will greet students and parents.  You want to appear confident and knowledgeable, but approachable and likable all at the same time.

Ideas for meet the teacher

Show parents you care throughout the year.  This goes a long way with parents!  You do this by sending home notes, sending emails, or just checking in now and then.  It's great to let parents know you're cheering for their children, by checking in with good things.

I always liked this illustration ...

If you put quarters in a jar continuously, and the jar is full of quarters, it won't be as detrimental to remove a quarter ... you will barely notice it's even gone.  But if you only have a few quarters in a jar, say three or four, it has a more noticeable impact.

Actually, this is true with both our parents and our students.  If you continually build students up and share with parents and they have positive experiences with you, the few times you have to bring the negative to them will have less impact on your relationship with the parent.  The parent will know you care from all the good you've shown them, and they will be more responsive to your need for help with discipline or their child's academic struggles.

Open lines of communication with parents

Communication is so important!  Be available to your parents, but set boundaries.  We live in an instant society and we all expect to get people 24/7.  You have to decide what the balance will be for you in allowing parents to contact you, and in having your own life that is separate from your work life.

This is how I handle this, but it doesn't work for everyone, so find your own balance.  I give parents my cell phone number.  However, they are only allowed to TEXT me on the number.  If they need to talk to me about something I will offer to call back, but I do not answer if they call.  I also provide email, a Facebook page, a weekly newsletter, and a school phone number where they can reach me.

Having all these options allows parents to contact me in a way that is most comfortable to them.  Of course, I am also available for conferences.  At the beginning of the year, I set the expectation through notes and a meeting, so if a parent contacts me by phone or email and leaves a message it MAY take up to 48 hours for me to get back to them.  I also explain to parents why it may take longer.  I include things such as my planning time, personal reasons, I may be out sick, or have after- school meetings.  Reminding them that these things happen helps them to be a bit more patient with me.

I also provide the option of texting, because it allows them a way to get in touch with me before an issue can get out of hand or they have time to stew over something that bothers them.  Diffusing a situation by communicating will save you a lot of stress later.

Keeping an open line of communication with parents and being honest with them, yet still professional, will take you far in helping students find success in your class.

Ways to Make Meet the Teacher Awesome

As we discuss parent information, I want to take this opportunity to talk about Meet the Teacher.  This is a great time of year to not only meet students, but to get as well as give information to parents.  Having information ready to go for parents will make you look organized and thoughtful.  It is a great time to make students feel welcome in your classroom.

Here is a list of things to give parents that I include during Meet the Teacher.  I will discuss each more in-depth below, along with giving some ideas for student gifts for Meet the Teacher and First Day of School.

Important Information to Share at Meet the Teacher

  1. WELCOME LETTER:  In your welcome letter, include some information about yourself that your parents may want to know.  This might include a parent/friend version of your philosophy of teaching (less education lingo, more about why you want to teach or love teaching). Where you went to school, about your family, interests and general information about how you run your classroom.
  2. CONTACT INFORMATION:  Include a sheet somewhere that can be hung on a fridge. I like a half-sheet, but you might also like to include it on a business card.  This should include your name (yes, some will forget it), school phone number, school email, and any other method that a parent may be able to contact you.  I include my cell phone, but I tell parents and notate on the sheet that the number is a "Text Only" number and that if they call the number they cannot reach me.  This cuts down on the parent calling, but allows them to easily contact you and you can call them back when you are ready.
  3. BASIC SCHEDULE:  Include things such as your school's start time, dismissal time (where you dismiss), lunch, recess, Co-Curr (PE/Music etc.), and Library times.  This helps parents when they have to schedule doctor's appointments, or if they want to come eat with their children.
  4. STUDENT INSIGHT FORM:  This gives parents a chance to tell you about their child and share any concerns, to brag on their child, let you know about allergies, and anything else that might be pertinent for you to know.  There are TONS of examples of these online.  Pick one that works for you.  Make sure it isn't too long, or parents get frustrated.
  5. PARENT CONTACT INFORMATION:  This is a paper that allows parents to tell you how to contact them.  This is a good place to get information about a student's family life, like who they live with, etc. so you contact the right person in case of an emergency.  You might also want to include a place on this form for parents to indicate their preferred method of communication. Some parents work odd hours or can't answer a phone, so email or text might be best for them.  Any way you can be accommodating in this area will strengthen your relationship with parents, and open the lines of communication.
  6. POLICIES, DISCIPLINE & PROCEDURES:  This may be the only time you see some of your parents, so it's a good time to give them a copy of classroom procedures involving homework, birthday celebrations, tests or other routines in your classroom.  This needs to be a concise list that is easy to reference and usable.  You can get a free editable version here. 
If you would like to see my whole pack, and what I give parents you can find it by clicking on the picture below.

I wish you a great start to the year, and encourage you to talk to your students' parents!  Building those relationships will take your students to new levels of learning!  It takes a community to raise and prepare a child for the world.

Click through to Beth at Adventures of a Schoolmarm to see what she has to say about building parent relationships.

Don't forget to check back next week, as we talk about Staff Relationships and working with your peers and other staff on your campus.


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