By Shannon Anderson, author of Coasting Casey
Connecting with parents and creating positive relationships with them is definitely one of the top priorities for ensuring a successful school year. There are many ways to make these connections. When you show parents that you care about their children, they will be more likely to partner with you and support you when needs arise throughout the year. Parents need to know you want the best for their child, not only academically, but also socially and emotionally. Try these strategies to help build your parent-teacher relationships:
- A couple of weeks before school starts, send your students a letter in the mail telling them how excited you are to meet them. Include a letter to the parents with important information such as the school supply list, academic calendar, and a survey about their child. This survey could include questions like: How does your child feel about school? What are his or her favorite kinds of books? How would you describe your child’s personality/behavior? Does your child have a special hobby or play a sport?
- Have both a Meet the Teacher Night and a Parent Night. Meet the Teacher Night is for the students to meet you a day or two before school starts, see the classroom, bring in their supplies, and relieve some of those first-day jitters. Parent Night is for you to introduce yourself to parents and go over classroom expectations, homework, and projects for the year.
- Invite parents to come in as often as possible. If students are doing any kind of presentation, invite parents to come and watch. If you are having a class party or field trip, ask for parent volunteers. Parents love to feel included and involved in their child’s home away from home. I also ask parents to come in and share about their careers and/or hobbies with our class.
- Hold parent conferences at least twice a year. My school holds traditional parent conferences in the winter, and then I have student-led conferences in the spring. Student-led conferences are run by the kids. They talk to their parents about their grades and progress toward goals. I’m there to coach kids and answer any questions.
- Communicate consistently. I send home a newsletter every Friday. It may have highlights from our week, upcoming events, and important information for parents. I send the letter through email and provide a hard copy for every student. This ensures that parents receive it! If I’m going to take the time to write a letter every week, I want parents to read it. It helps that I include photos of the kids. Parents like to see those.
- Maintain a website and reminder system. Keep a teacher website that parents can visit for information and use a texting system, such as remind.com, to send text reminders for important happenings. If there is a pajama day at school or book orders are due the next day, I send a reminder to all of my students’ parents. It is a convenient way to help busy parents stay in the know.
- Join and participate in parent-teacher organizations and help out at the events. If there is a special school function, like “Muffins with Moms” or “Donuts with Dads,” go in to mingle and say hello.
- Create special events or projects that involve parents. For example, I have parents secretly decorate students’ lockers midyear. I send home a sealed “Secret Mission” envelope explaining the Locker Love project and give the dimensions and photo examples of the lockers. Most parents come up with inspirational sayings and pictures and decorate their child’s name in big letters. I pick a night that parents can come in and help me hang up all the decorations. The kids are so surprised and excited the next day when they see what their parents did to the lockers. They keep the decorations up the rest of the year.
- At the end of the year, send a parent feedback survey. It can be scary to put yourself out there, but it is so helpful to learn what your parents liked best about your teaching and classroom management styles, and what they suggest you change. I always grow professionally when I read their ideas, and parents appreciate that you want to be your best.
Parents are valuable partners in your students’ education. You can learn a lot about how to meet your students’ needs when parents communicate with you. I’m sure there are many other wonderful ideas for connecting with parents. Feel free to suggest any ideas you have in the comments!
Shannon Anderson has her master’s degree in education and is a literacy coach, high ability coordinator, adjunct professor, and former first-grade teacher. She loves spending time with her family, playing with words, teaching kids and adults, running very early in the morning, traveling to new places, and eating ice cream. She also enjoys doing author visits and events. Shannon lives in Indiana with her husband Matt and their daughters Emily and Madison.
Free Spirit books by Shannon Anderson:
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