Monday, March 27, 2017

Positive Parent Partnerships

We all dread having to make a phone call to a parent that is NOT so positive.  It's a reality that every teacher faces from time to time.  You can increase the odds that you will get parental support by taking a few steps throughout the year to build a positive relationship with your parent partners.

One of the first things I do at the beginning of the year is invite parents to write a letter to me about their child. Some parents send a handwritten or typed letter.  Others send an e-mail.  I ask the parents to share any special information they think I might want to know about their child.  What are their child's likes, dislikes, strengths, and challenges?   Have they had any special trips or experiences that are unique?  I ask parents to tell me what their goals are for their child and what they expect from me. Parents often enjoy writing about their kids and they appreciate the opportunity to have a voice.  I explain that this information helps me to get to know my students personally but also gives me ideas to help the students with writing topics in the future.  I keep these letters to refer to throughout the year.  When a child is stuck and can't think of anything to write about, I have some ideas to help.  I try to follow up  with a personal e-mail to the parents.  I let them know I received the letter and also mention something interesting that was shared.  Again, parents appreciate being heard.  The personal response lets them know you are listening.  It doesn't take that long to send a quick e-mail.  Since most of these letters come in rather staggered the first couple of weeks of school, I only have to respond to a few each evening.

Another way to build positive relationships with families is to send postcards.  I make address labels at the beginning of the year for each student.  Then I attach one label to a postcard.  I use the cards to send a quick positive note home.  You can thank a child for being a great leader in class, for sharing their writing ideas, for doing well on a math test…  There are so many opportunities to use these cards. The students LOVE getting mail and the parents appreciate the positive communication.

Although the next idea takes some planning, it's worth it.  Each month I host one parent or family meeting in the evening.  The topics cover a wide range of things from daily routines and class expectations at the beginning of the year to a family science night later in the year.  Here's a list of the topics and meetings I host each year.
parent night list
Although it does take some time to plan and organize each meeting, once I have the structure and idea, I can use the same material each year.  It's much easier to implement when I have thought out what I want to do and say.

Here are links to some resources I use for family math night and family science night.

Give parents an inside look at your teaching methods with apps like Educreations.  I have created numerous short videos that explain what we are working on in math and how parents can help at home.  I know there are other apps and programs available as well.  Again, there is some work to do up front but once these videos are created, you can use them from year to year.

Our math series provides school to home connection letters for each chapter.  I make sure and utilize these so that parents stay informed.  I created similar letters for some of our language arts standards. This is another way that I keep parents informed.

Most teachers send a monthly newsletter and/or weekly update about what is happening at school and in the classroom.  These should be foundational things that take place in every classroom.  As a parent myself, I always appreciated getting communication from my son's teachers.

I think the key to positive parent partnerships is frequent and consistent communication.  When parents feel supported and informed, they are more likely to be receptive to communication from you that might not be so positive.  The bottom line is to follow "The Golden Rule" with parents.  Treat them as you, as a parent, would want to be treated.

How do you build positive parent partnerships?  What tips can you share?

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