To be successful teachers must have good communication skills, not only with their co-workers, administration, and students but with parents as well. One of the first things I learned when I became a teacher is the importance of Parent – Teacher Communication. I have found that when parents and teachers have good communication throughout the year the students are usually more successful.
First Impressions Can Make or Break Parent-Teacher Communication
I believe wholeheartedly that first impressions stick with a person. In my school district we have a “Meet the Teacher” evening the week before school starts where students and parents can come in and see their classroom, meet their teacher, and drop off supplies. This is my opportunity to make that everlasting good first impression. When students and parents walk in my room they see a warm and inviting classroom (I always have a theme in my room to make it feel even more special and united, this year it is Peace, Love, and 4th Grade Frogs). I make sure to greet every single child and their parents too. Acknowledging the parents and letting them know I look forward to working hand and hand to help their child be successful is my first step in building that relationship.
On the first or second day of school I send home a parent questionnaire that I call “Parents as Partners” which asks questions about their child’s strengths and needs, what concerns they may have, what their child’s hobbies are and what a good teacher for their child is. During the very first week of school, no matter how busy I may be, I make it a point to call each and every parent/guardian to let them know how happy I am to have their child in my classroom. I also ask the parents if they have any questions and remind them that they shouldn’t ever hesitate to contact me.
By the end of the first week of school I have had at least three positive interactions with parents which will set a good tone right away. We must remember that parents are allies and all they want is what is best for their child. They want to know you will do what is best for their child and be an advocate for them while they are at school.
A couple of weeks into the school year we have our Parent Orientation Night. I usually have some chocolate or cookies set out for the parents. As parents walk in the room, I hand them a small magnet with my contact information and invite them to sit down. I start out by telling them once again how much I love being an educator and enjoy having their child in my class. I let them know that I want to hear from them throughout the year and I am providing them with a magnet that has all my contact info to keep on their refrigerator. I tell the parents a little about myself personally and then engage them in a conversation about my rules and expectations. Instead of just telling the parents about the rules and expectations I make them a part of it and provide them with a brochure/packet to take home.
Periodically throughout the year I send home positive notes, emails, and even make phone calls that make parents smile. This not only keeps the lines of communication open but lets the parents know you care by taking the time out of your busy schedule for their child.
There will be times when we may need to contact a parent when we have to discuss a behavior issue or perhaps an academic struggle. When we do, it is important to be calm and start out with something positive. Don’t sugarcoat things but be honest and factual. After you inform the parent, make sure you let them talk while you actively listen. Do not get defensive and but offer solutions. By building a strong relationship from the beginning of the year, you are able sustain good parent-teacher communication throughout even when you may not have something positive to say.
About the Author
Lorraine Vasquez is a third grade teacher in San Antonio, Texas. She has a passion for teaching and loves being an educator. Follow her blog, Fabulous 3rd Grade Froggies, for great teaching ideas, tips, and more. You can also find Fabulous 3rd Grade Froggies on Facebook and on Twitter.