Making the Most of Positive Relationships with Parents

Building Positive Relationships Between Teachers and Parents As a new year approaches, perhaps one of the most significant reservations a teacher has is not only meeting new kids for the first time, but also that first impression with parents. Parents entrust the school system, and more specifically the teachers, to take care of their children socially, personally, and academically. This is parallel to a physician taking care of twenty-three patients simultaneously! Parents expect not only the academic needs of their child to be met, but also the developmental, physical, and psychological needs, as well. That is a formidable responsibility, one that teachers do not take lightly. Therefore, let’s take a minute to deconstruct how we communicate with parents and how we can make the interaction stronger, thus enriching the experience for all stakeholders. One of the most crucial times to establish a healthy relationship between parents and teacher is during the first meeting with the teacher. I know this is a fundamental principle; however, many parents and teachers form this bond during parent open house. While some parents make a point of sending a detailed email about their child and his or her specific needs, some prefer to meet the teacher during the first week, before or after school, to talk about their child’s unique attributes. Teachers, like other humans, have unique personalities and gifts. Some kindergarten and first grade teachers really know how to get down on the kids’ level and break the nervous tension that accompanies the first day of school. Whereas, upper grade teachers engage in high fives or tension breaking humor to excite kids about their new adventures. Any teacher can make a parent and new student feel welcomed with smiles, laughter, and a genuine concern for the child. Sending home school and parent newsletters that communicate a desire for parent involvement and feeling welcomed within the school are two entirely different things. A parent needs to understand and feel that they are the critical denominator in their child’s success. Forming a positive relationship from the start helps to bridge a positive triangular relationship among the child, parent, and teacher; furthermore, the positive collaboration encourages the parent to come back or call with concerns when they arise. It creates a mutual atmosphere of trust and respect , which accentuate the learning experience for all. Once that first meeting has been established, there are now many other ways to communicate and talk with teachers. Some parents will drop a call or email every few weeks to ensure things are still running smoothly. Other teacher notifications, such as newsletters, progress reports, forms, permission slips, etc. go home each week. Additionally, a great time to meet with teachers and discuss student success is parent-teacher-student conference night. It is critical for teachers to start with positive, encouraging words about their students, as well as listening to the parents’ concerns for their child. Because a positive parental climate has already been established, the parent is more likely to trust the teacher’s advice and suggestions for helping. If there is a question or frustration, often times, it is advisable to give space and time for all parties to reflect, revisit the topic, and try to work it out together for the advancement of the child. Unfortunately, many people are venting on social media and receiving backing of friends and family about school situations. Once that happens, trust is severely eroded for the teacher and parent. Historically, even when a parent and I had different ideas and solutions, the parent generally never questioned that I had the best interest of their child as my main objective. Furthermore, with continued positive communication and meetings, we have always been able to come up with solutions we were both satisfied with. For the parents who are unable to come in for meetings, they still love to receive updates about the progress of their child. It means the world to parents to know the growth their child is experiencing or that we care enough to ask the parent to encourage them at home. Although, sometimes, it wouldn’t happen until the end of the year, it was always gratifying when a parent said, “Thank you for the positive notes home, *******(child) would really work harder knowing their work was being noticed and appreciated by their teacher.” It is not a secret that good teachers value positive parental relationships. Building a strong relationship from the beginning makes it easier for parents to offer their volunteer services in the school to enrich the educational experience for all stakeholders. We have been fortunate to have parental volunteers and other citizens, such as veterans, come and talk with kids on Veteran’s Day, business leaders judge competitions, and community leaders help with science events. Furthermore, other parents who are paleontologist hobbyists, world travelers, scientists, and judges come and speak with the kids. The students are enriched by the diverse community interaction and look up to parents and community leaders as role models. By involving the community, we are forming a special bond that will continue to be a beacon for our children and inspire them to be exemplary community leaders in the future. So, as we get ready to kick off a new school year, may we remember that the team we build with teachers, community leaders, parents and kids are the strongest when we all work together to aim high and become undefeatable in each student’s education. That is the team I would put up against anyone! A strong student/parent/ teacher team is unstoppable and can achieve remarkable results! Building a welcoming school culture encompasses students, parents, volunteers, and community stakeholders who feel welcomed and valued. Tips for a Great Year of Communication: 1. Make that first contact: Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, don’t keep tabs on who called whom, just make the call or meet the teacher. Call the parents with great news or just reflect on what a neat kid they have. Let them know you value them and their kid is great. I don’t think there is a parent out there that doesn’t believe their kid isn’t wonderful. 2. Keep the communication going: Whether it is post-its, emails, PTO night, science fair, or field trips, talk to each other. Support each other. Be honest, but respectful. Parents should let teachers know when someone is deathly sick in the family or there is a change in medicines. These notifications are extremely helpful; if teachers are aware of factors at home that might impact the student, teachers can be more observant and helpful to the child at school. We are there to support your child. 3. Newsletters/ homework/ questions: Show your child you’re interested in what they are learning. Send in questions you have; ask your child to bring home notes, books, and any relevant materials that might help explain what they don’t understand. Tell your child’s teacher all about your awesome child! Some teachers send home a personal information sheet where parents can talk about strengths and weaknesses, fears, insecurities, and hobbies. Or, you may even have time to talk with them about successes and struggles at Open House Night. Even if your teacher doesn’t send home introductory information or you