How Teachers can Build Stronger Connections with Parents
No matter how much support you receive from parents, it is essential to work to foster deeper connections with them.
Over the course of my career, I’ve seen children overcome challenging home lives through some combination of who they are and what the school can offer. What I’ve seen far more often, though, is an academically supportive home life working in chorus with the teacher and school to help a child succeed.
Getting parents in step with your expectations and supporting your work is a powerful tool in helping your students. These tips can help bring parents on-board.
Spell out expectations in writing
Recently, I’ve noticed the growing popularity of the “one-sheet” strategy for communicating expectations and information to parents. Recognizing that people are time-pressed and coping with multiple distractions, the one-sheet distills the most vital information for parents and students.
Also, holding yourself to one sheet helps to focus on the most pressing information. Don’t assume parents know your basic expectations. Be clear and communicate everything they need to do to help their child. You’d be surprised to see how effective a single piece of paper — easily hung on a refrigerator or corkboard — can be in reminding parents of what you need from them.
My experience has been that too many teachers don’t establish a regular communication stream. Setting up a website for parents, using social media, and/or sending a regular email blast delivers a slow drip of information into student homes. This promotes stronger parent-teacher relationships.
You don’t have to overload them with information, but providing some information on a consistent basis encourages collaborative parent-teacher-student connections.
Some teachers feel that communicating heavily with parents won’t teach the children responsibility. I understand that line of thought, but I believe it’s better to err on the side of too much rather than too little communication. With more information, parents will be “in the know”, understanding issues, needs, and resources available to assist their student. Additionally, parents and teachers can work together to promote student accountability by setting up consistent support structures and regular check-ins via email.
Speak with authority
Parents want to know their child’s teacher has the capacity to help them with their parenting challenges. When the opportunity arises, take the initiative and offer direct and commonsense advice to parents on how they can best support the work you’re trying to do.
Not only will this advice be well-received, but it will enable you to strengthen your professional practice. Of course, you should never offer advice that is outside your teaching role, but jump right in if you can be of help. Just make sure parents do not feel as if they’re being lectured by you.
As a parent myself, I’ve risen to meet some challenges and missed others by a mile. Along the way, I’ve asked for advice from my children’s teachers and usually received positive, helpful responses. From time to time, however, the advice bordered on the unkind.
Occasionally advice was offered off-handedly and did little to help me address the situation or grow as a parent. At all times, regardless of the situation, you should always take the approach that the parent needs you to be as kind and understanding as possible.
It’s not unreasonable to think that, along with the students, you are also playing a role in the “raising” of parents. Taking a growth-oriented approach to their parenting, and believing that you can assist them in their role, will increase your capacity as a teacher and help all of your students.