During University, professors would talk all of the time about the importance of the educational triad. Teacher- Parent- Student. It felt like every professor would give at least one lecture about the importance of home- school relationships. But not a single one gave realistic ways to create these ever important relationships! I remember thinking to myself, how on earth am I supposed to make this happen?
12 months later, as I enter into my second year of teaching, I can honestly say that I have found a few secrets to improving home- school relationships. Here are my top tips!
- Make a good first impression!
The week before school started, I mailed postcards to all of my students! They LOVED this! After all, what kid doesn’t like getting “real mail”. I created and ordered my postcards from Vistaprint while they were having their semi annual sale. I got a ton of great feedback about the postcards from the parents and it was a nice way for them to get to know me even before school started.
2) Email and Call With Praise! (Especially if you know that there might be a problem later on.)
During the first month of school, I am constantly catching my kids doing good things. I like to snap pictures of these moments and email them to their parents. I usually include a comment saying something along the lines of “So proud of Julia, she is really building her reading stamina!”
I have found that if parents hear from you about good things, they start to feel as though you really care about their child. (Which you do! That is why you are a teacher!) When they know that you are on their child’s side, they are more willing to listen to you if you have any concerns down the line.
3) Communicate often and use a variety of methods!
Parents are similar to kids in that they are all different. Some prefer email, others prefer notes, others still will only read something if it is sent directly to their phone. As a teacher, it can be a very daunting task to try and communicate effectively using many different methods of communication! I am a BIG fan of simple and easy.
I really like REMIND. You can check them out here www.remind.com.
I use REMIND for last minute reminders. For instance, I might remind parents to have their child wear pink for the assembly or that our fractions test is on Friday. The great thing about REMIND is that all of the messages go straight to parents’ phones. But, they don’t have your phone number and you don’t have theirs. It is genius! REMIND has even launched a new chat feature. I am anxious to try it out this year. Best of all, this is all FREE. Let’s get real, who doesn’t love FREE???
I post our homework and daily reminders on our classroom blog. I found that once I got in the habit of posting every afternoon, it became part of my daily routine. The key to making a classroom blog work is consistency. If you are hardly ever updating information, parents aren’t likely to check in.
Now it’s time for a bit of honesty… I stopped writing newsletters in December of last year. At first I felt super guilty about it! But then I realized that no one even noticed. There was not a single parent or student who asked about the newsletter. Now I am by no means saying that you should get rid of your newsletter! Especially if it works really well for you. All I am saying is that you shouldn’t feel guilty if something isn’t working. I was spending almost 3 hours writing my monthly newsletter and it just wasn’t a good use of my time.
4) Do NOT email parents about problems.
We have all been there, you get to school on Monday morning after a busy weekend of laminating and lesson planning only to find an email from “that parent” in your inbox. The moment where your stomach does that little flippy thing and you feel like you might be sick. I have found that more often than not, they just needed to get something off of their chest. Unfortunately, you were the virtual punching bag that they chose to use. Whenever I get a lengthy email like that, I simply respond with “Please give me a call so that we can discuss this further.” I have had many parents email me back apologizing and indicating that they have thought more about the issue and that it is not a big deal.
5) Don’t forget the LOVE!
Remember that at the end of the day, we are all just looking out for the best interest of the kids. Once parents see that you love their child and care about them, they will want to have a positive relationship with you!
What are your “go to” methods for parent communication? I would love to hear them in the comments below!