You only get one chance to make a first impression.
At the start of the school year, you may be excited to meet your new students, earn their trust, and generate excitement for the year of learning ahead. The beginning of a new year is also the perfect time to include and immediately involve parents and guardians as well. What you do in the first few weeks of school can make a positive first impression on parents and guardians that will set a foundation of respect, open dialogue, and impactful communication. There are a variety of small practices you can employ from day one to immediately involve parents and guardians and set your students as well as yourself up for a successful school year.
- Call Each Home to Introduce Yourself. Make time during the first few weeks to call each student’s parents or guardians. Use the phone call as an opportunity to introduce yourself, set an expectation for what their child will be expected to learn during the year, and ask about any specific concerns the parents or guardians may have for their child. The phone call offers a valuable opportunity to learn about any challenges or opportunities you may face with individual students so that you can plan accordingly.
- Send Weekly Progress Emails Home. Send home weekly, individual progress reports. The reports do not have to be lengthy. They should summarize noteworthy accomplishments and identify any concepts with which the child is struggling. If time or classroom size makes individual weekly emails prohibitive, consider sending a single email to all parents and guardians that summarizes what students have learned during the week, any homework or assignments that are forthcoming, and how the class is progressing with learning fundamental concepts. Whether the communications are individualized or collective, parents and guardians will appreciate receiving regular updates on their child’s progress before they review their child’s first report card.
- Invite Parents and Guardians to an Open House. An open house night offers a valuable opportunity to meet parents and guardians face-to-face, allow them to meet and mingle with one another, and invite them to visit their child’s classroom. Use the open house as an opportunity to briefly describe what students will learn in the year ahead, what the expectations will be for their progress, and explain your unique style of teaching. Make sure you allow time for group questions and dialogue, and for parents or guardians to speak with you individually after your presentation.
- Send A Folder of Work Home for Parent/Guardian Review and Comment. Each week, send students home with a folder of recent work to be shared with their parents or guardians. Ask the parents or guardians to sign and return a form that validates that they have seen the work, and provides them an avenue to make comments and ask questions. They will appreciate the opportunity to verify their child’s progress and identify possible areas of concern that may warrant discussion with you.
In the 2002 research review A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement, Anne T. Henderson and Karen L. Mapp conclude that “there is a positive and convincing relationship between family involvement and student success, regardless of race/ethnicity, class, or parents’ level of education”.1 In other words, the more your students’ parents or guardians are involved in their child’s learning experience, the better the child is likely to perform in your classroom. By remaining engaged with parents and guardians, stimulating two-way dialogue, and ensuring that everyone involved feels enabled to contact you with questions or concerns, you and your students will be set up for mutual success throughout the school year.
Do you have any tips for keeping parents or guardians in the loop? If so, share your ideas below!
1. Report – The Positive Relationship Between Family Involvement and Student Success. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pta.org/home/run-your-pta/National-Standards-for-Family-School-Partnerships/Report-The-Positive-Relationship-Between-Family-Involvement-and-Student-Success↩