“Great teachers focus not on compliance, but on connections and relationships.”
— PJ Caposey, Education Week
What does it mean for you to connect with a parent? Is it thoughtfully attending each marking period’s parent-teacher conference with poignant insights about your student? Is connection something that can be achieved digitally, such as with Facebook groups, online portals, and/or weekly emails? Should it perhaps be more personal, coming in the form of hand-written notes and occasional phone calls to check in and share progress?
As we begin a new school year, how can you more meaningfully connect with each child’s parents or guardians in a way that will foster impactful collaboration and lead to student success? To help you make more meaningful connections with parents this year, you don’t have to work harder, just smarter. Here we offer three simple techniques.
- Make contact early and often. At the start of every school year, reach out to your students’ parents and guardians with an introduction. If at any point in the year you need to have a crucial conversation with a parent, it will help if you have already had foundational interactions with the parents and are starting from a place of familiarity.In addition, keep in regular contact with parents—and make every interaction as positive as you can. Provide consistent progress updates via email, phone, and notes. And reach out to share positive stories, small wins, and successes of your students. If you only speak with parents during performance review periods or when there are concerns, it will be hard to foster the type of relationship that will allow you to be unified partners in the child’s academic and social success.
- In one-on-one conversations, ask how things are going. Really. Any conversation with a parent will naturally lean toward the child’s progress, social observations, and potential concerns. These are opportunities for you to share information out to parents. To create stronger connections, be sure to take information in as well. Ask the parent how things are going at home and how everyone in the family is doing. You may learn that a student struggling in the classroom is adjusting to their parents’ separation or that a parent who hasn’t been able to support their child’s at-home assignments recently lost their job and is taking odd jobs to make ends meet. By understanding the totality of the factors influencing your student’s development, you and their parents can better work together on a plan to support the child’s unique needs.
- Keep notes on your parent conversations. Each parent in your school is collaborating with only a small number of teachers. However, you are nurturing dozens of students and attempting to build relationships with exponentially more parents. Keep a brief record of all conversations you have with each child’s parent or guardian. Refer to your notes before planned meetings. When parents realize that you remember that they previously expressed they were concerned about their child because of a recent family event or that they want their child to receive extra support in STEM classes, they will realize how invested you are in their child. That awareness will strengthen your relationship.
Final Words of Advice
Whether you are contacting a parent to praise their child or discuss a disciplinary concern, approach every conversation from the perspective of wanting to achieve a mutual purpose. Likely, that purpose is for the child to develop academically, socially, and emotionally. With that understanding as the foundation of your interactions, you’ll naturally form an impactful connection with your students’ parents and guardians that will benefit all involved.
It’s Your Turn!
Do you have any ideas that will help our community of teachers build better relationships with parents? Please comment below. We’d love to hear your ideas!