Establishing positive parent relationships and fostering good parent communication can be one of the most difficult tasks as a teacher. However, putting in the time and effort to get to know parents and create a safe space for communication is extremely important. Parents are meant to be PARTNERS with teachers to help provide the best care for their child as possible. Here are some tips for fostering positive parent communication.
COMMUNICATE EARLY & OFTEN
It is never too early to establish parent relationships! You can begin communicating with parents from the very start. At my school we would have a “Meet the Teacher” night before the first day of school and I would send the first parent communication right after this. Creating good parent/teacher relationships at the beginning will set the tone for the rest of the school year. Parents need to feel comfortable sharing with you and confident that you have their child’s best interests at heart. Share a little about yourself so that parents can get to know you, tell them what makes you stand out as a teacher, how excited you are to have their child in your class. etc. This is a great way to start positive conversations early in the year!
Begin communicating early, but don’t stop there! Communicate with parents often. If you only communicate with parents when there is a problem happening with their child, this will create negativity around communication. If the only time they receive an email or note from you is when there is an issue, they’ll soon be dreading your name in their inbox and that is not how we want them to feel.
PARENT UPDATE STRATEGY
Establish a consistent strategy for communicating with parents. How will you communicate events, student issues, concerns, etc? Here are some ideas – choose a primary communication method and let parents know this is how you would like for them to communicate with you throughout the school year.
- Weekly Newsletter
- Communication Folders
While you will certainly be communicating with parents throughout the week as needed, there should be one consistent way that you update parents (daily or weekly) so they know what to expect and count on this communication from you.
Here are some items you may want to include when communicating with parents each day/week!
- What we are learning/ what we are working on
- Upcoming events
- Volunteer Opportunities
- Their child’s progress
- Any concerns
Regardless of the communication method you choose to use for your classroom, be sure to stay consistent. This way, parents know how to reach you and nothing is lost in translation! This leaves less room for miscommunication and fosters positive relationships.
PRO TIP: If a parent communicates in a different way than your preferred method, it is OK to redirect them. Acknowledge what they have communicated but then remind them of how you prefer they communicate with you. This way, you are guaranteed to see what they need to tell you and everything is in one place.
Like we mentioned before, communicate often and not just about the negatives. My most recent year of teaching, I decided to send positive notes home for students as often as possible. Whenever I would notice a student did something kind for someone, practicing self-control, or mastering a new skill, I would send a positive note home. Students LOVED seeing a positive note in their communication folders. I loved seeing the excitement in their eyes and how proud they were of themselves. Parents mentioned frequently that the positive notes meant the world to them, so I highly recommend positive communication often. It goes a long way with not only the parents, but the students as well!
Dun-dun-dun…I said the dreaded word “conferences”. Parent/teacher conferences can cause a lot of anxiety, but can be extremely effective in fostering parent relationships. It differs from school to school, but you may only be required to do one or two parent conferences each year. I decided to start doing parent conferences three times per year (and more if needed based on the child’s needs). The beginning of the year conference can be used to discuss where students are as they enter the new grade level, get to know parents, and establish a relationship. The middle of the school year conference can be used to answer any questions, address concerns, and keep parents informed on their child’s progress. The end of the year conference can be used to discuss where students stand academically and socially, what can be worked on over the summer, and to praise how far the student has come over the school year. I found this system worked really well and helped ensure a smooth school year with us all on the same page!