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August 18, 2010

Parent-Teacher Interaction Strategies

Written By: Brandi Jordan
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Parent-Teacher Interaction Strategies

Building a positive relationship with the parents of your students is key to a successful and fulfilling school year. When we asked veteran teachers from across the country how they go about nurturing that relationship, there was no shortage of ideas. Below are some teacher-tried and classroom-tested ideas that are sure to inspire you to build great relationships with families this year.

Building Strong Parent-Teacher Relationships

Banking on Parents’ Involvement

“I think of building relationships with parents much like I would build up a bank account,” explains 3rd & 4th Grade Teacher Janice from Warsaw, Indiana. “It’s important to make more ‘deposits’ than ‘withdrawals.’ During the first few days of school, and throughout the school year, I look for positive aspects about each child, and then report my findings to his or her parents. This deposit can be as simple as noting when a student performs an act of kindness, when he asks or answers a difficult question, or when she does well on a test or assignment. Later on, if a difficult situation comes up and a withdrawal needs to be made, it seems to go more smoothly since I already made positive deposits.”

 

The Value of Honoring Parents’ Perspectives

“We all learn new and valuable lessons every day. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to always listen to parents’ thoughts and suggestions,” says Tomeka, a 1st Grade Teacher from Indianapolis, Indiana. “Although as teachers we are trained in the field of education – and often believe we know what’s educationally best for each child – we must remember that most parents have known their children for their entire lives and from a different perspective. It’s good to remain open and remember that parents may have fresh insights and ideas for helping to support their own children in the learning process. Any tips or ideas parents put forth may prove to be just the thing you need help their children learn more effectively.”

 

Ticket to Conflict Resolution

“When students have issues with each other in school, parents often expect me to come to the rescue,” admits Diane, a 3rd Grade Teacher from Medinah, Illinois. “I tell parents that, instead of unraveling and solving students’ problems, I look for ways to empower their children with conflict resolution skills. I add that one of the best tools I developed is the “Problem Report Form.” I explain that when children are upset with each other, they must complete the form before speaking with me. I keep a supply of these forms in a basket at our Writing Center so the children can help themselves when needed.

The form provides spaces for students to supply information, such as:

  • The date
  • The names of students involved
  • A description of what happened from each participant’s unique perspective
  • Steps that could have been used to prevent the situation
  • Ideas for preventing the situation in the future
  • Signatures of parent, teacher, principal as well as the students involved.

This approach calms ragged feelings and encourages productive conversation between and among the feuding students. It also helps students understand their problems and allows them to see how they each participated in the situation. As a bonus benefit, the form system prevents students from tattling about frivolous situations of little or no real consequence. Sharing the forms with parents is one way I can inform them of what happened in class while demonstrating how their children are becoming empowered to solve their own problems.”

 

Working Together with Parents By Giving Them Specifics

“Parents who learn their child is not progressing smoothly in school can quickly move into panic mode,” warns Maralee, a 6th Grade Teacher in Rancho Murietta, California. “Out of a sense of caring, fear, and/or embarrassment, parents can easily become defensive at the mere hint that something is not right. To help parents relax as you discuss their child and his or her challenges together, it’s important that you begin any discussion with a sincere and positive observation. For example, you might say something like, ‘Your son Johnny has many friends; just the other day I pointed out to him how I’ve noticed he is always kind and considerate of others,’ Then move to any specific concerns you might have about Johnny.

When discussing concerns, avoid hazy generalizations that can overwhelm parents (e.g., ‘Johnny is weak in math’) and instead stick to manageable specifics parents can address (e.g., ‘I do have some concerns about Johnny’s ability to recall math facts quickly’). Then offer some samples of the work or recorded observations of the behavior in question. Invite the parents to share their perspective (as they are sure to have a different, yet equally valid, take on their child) and work together for some solutions to try. Share some positive ideas you are going to try in class, as well as some ideas and resources parents can try at home. Close the meeting by agreeing to follow up on a mutually convenient date in the near future. This specific and helpful approach helps place you and the parents on the same side in your shared concern for Johnny and his progress.”

Parent-Teacher Interaction Strategies - Building Strong Parent - Teacher Relationships - ReallyGoodTeachers.com

What are some of your best tips for interacting with parents and building strong home-school connections? Leave a comment below and share with us!

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  • Dierdre Owens
    August 22, 2010

    Our students are provided with a journal at the beginning of every school year. My students are required to write down their homework every day and each morning my “homework monitors” give a sticker to those students who have brought in their home work. Any results for tests or quizzes are also written down. Parents sign the log every week and students are required to return the assignment book with signature on Monday.
    At the beginning of every year, I also provide parents and students with my home phone number. I assure them that I want children to call for homework help. In 18 years of teaching, this has NEVER been abused.

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  • Beth
    August 21, 2010

    I often dont have working numbers for my students’ families. So I use notes to make “deposits” of good communication. I buy the themed notepads from RGS at the beginning of the year. I try to buy one for each month of the school year. At the beginning of the month, I write each child’s name at the top of one sheet. Throughout the following weeks, I make sure to send a good note with each kid about something they did in the classroom. By pre-writing each student’s name on a page, I make sure I dont accidentally forget anyone. I’ve heard from parents that they love to get these good notes!

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  • Casey
    August 21, 2010

    The first week of school I call each of my parents welcoming them into my classroom. I also send home a letter introducing myself and the classroom. I then send home a form for the parents to fill out about themselves and their child. During the school year I try to call 5-7 parents a week to find out how they are doing and fill them in on what is going on in the classroom. This has cut down on parents in my classroom and student problems.

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  • Jodi
    August 19, 2010

    The first week, I send home an assignment just for the parents. Since parents are the ones who know their child the best, I ask them to share “a million words or less” about their child.
    Every year I am amazed at the responses I get. Parents thank me over and over for allowing them to do this. It gives so much great insight on the child, and the parents a chance to brag about their child. Just asking parents for this simple assignment starts the year off on the right foot, showing them that I am interested in their child.

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  • Sherrie
    August 19, 2010

    Jill, I sort of do the same thing, but I like your statment about rather having a conversation than a misunderstanding.

    I want to be known as a great teacher in our district and well-respected and that starts with parents. I also call them the first week and remind them of open house. I even offer for them to bring their school supplies as I collect many of them.
    I keep a day-to-day log about the students behavior through my weekly responsibility sheet that stays in their TIGER folders. The parents can write little notes to me or tell me to call them or any concerns that I can follow up on. It really cuts down on phone calls that I have seen other teachers making almost everyday.

    Communication is key to a successful year!

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  • Bonnie Cornelius
    August 19, 2010

    All parents love to hear the sound of their child’s cheerful voice. Daily assist a couple students as they make ‘happy calls’ from our classroom to their home or to their parent’s work place, if allowed. The purpose of the call is for the child to tell their parent what they have done to make me especially proud of them. It could be great attitude, staying on task, showing good teamwork, work well done, etc. Parents are thrilled and self esteem soars. For those families we are unable to reach by phone, I send a ‘pat on the back’ note. A simple grid is an easy way to keep track of bragging categories and dates of phone calls. It only takes a few minutes and the rewards are beyond measure.

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  • Jill
    August 18, 2010

    I start before school! During the week before school begins, I call each family, welcome their child to my class, remind them of Open House, and ask if they have any questions or concerns while we talk privately. I tell them I am never offended by questions and that I’d rather have a conversation than a misunderstanding. Most parents remark that they are thrilled to be contacted in such a way. I believe it starts my year off right.

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