Parent and Teacher Relationships
Maximizing Learning Opportunities
During my tenure as an elementary teacher at a classical Christian school, one day I mentioned an issue I was having with a student to my principal. Before I knew it the principal called the parents and set up a meeting with them for that same afternoon to work out a plan for the betterment of the student. Flustered to say the least, I was second guessing myself and feeling like I hadn’t thought through the situation. I really just wanted to discuss it with another colleague and think on it, decide on a plan, watch for the problem to disappear on its own, and then maybe call the parents at a later time. However, deep down I appreciated that my principal acted swiftly to nip a potential worsening problem. The parents got involved, and the problem was curtailed quickly.
Teachers need to take the lead by being proactive in their own communication. Click to tweet
Developing Good Relationships Takes Work
Communication in any relationship is a good but sometimes difficult thing. In its most basic form communication is an exchange of thoughts and ideas with another person. There are breakdowns because somehow we are not clear enough, or the listener may interpret what we said, wrote, or expressed in a different way than what was intended. This can be frustrating, especially in a day when sending off an e-mail or text is most convenient, but the face to face is lost and so is the tone in which something was said.
The parent-teacher dynamic can be simple and sometimes complicated. This is because good communication takes consistent work, and everyone is very busy at best and lazy at worst. There are certainly studies to show that when communication is good between teacher and parent, or school and home, students do better in school overall. Consequently, despite the exertion, it’s important to put the effort into the relationships.
Teachers Must Take the Lead
Teachers need to take the lead by being proactive in their own communication. Often, when parents know what is going on in their own child’s classroom they are more positive toward the teacher. The positive aspect can fluctuate if a teacher only communicates with the parent when there is something negative to convey, or when too much time elapses since the parent’s last query. Problems surface when a parent shows no interest or when a parent shows too much interest. Finding the balance is a key factor in the parent-teacher relationship. The parents who seem to need the most help are the “helicopter parent” and the non-involved parent.
Helping the Helicopter Parent Find Balance
We all have known parents who were involved in every aspect of their child’s lives to a fault. But the term “helicopter parent” surfaced around the time the millennial generation came into adulthood. These hovering parents never allow their children to figure out how to resolve conflict on the playground or discuss their academic problems with their teachers on their own. A lot has been written about them. Even college professors have complaints about the helicopter parent. For some interesting reading on the subject check out this article written in the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5-ways-to-tell-you-were-raised-by-helicopter-parents_us_5609de6ee4b0dd850308e26 0 (By the way: the article is good for information. I think the solutions could be better, but they -HP- have many others on the same topic.)
To help these parents find a balance it’s going to be up to the teacher to set a tone of reassurance, kindness, and patience. Allow for regular times that you will communicate with parents. Assure them that you are being fair as a teacher and you would love to listen to their student argue for the extra point on a test to encourage their debate abilities. Find creative ways to tell parents that it’s important for their child to communicate their own needs and ideas to the teacher or other adults. I found some great apps for better communication between classroom-teacher and home-parents that will be placed at the end of this article.
Helping the Uninvolved Parent Find Balance
As educators I know that sometimes we feel like we’ve tried everything and nothing has worked to have some parents involved in their child’s education process. Often these particular children need the most help at home. Certain parents either don’t want to be bothered or they can’t take the time to invest in their child because of a demanding work schedule. Just in case you haven’t tried everything really, here are some encouragements for you.
Continue to include the parents in everything anyway. You never know what might hit a nerve and gain a response. Require a signature on good work the student has done. Work hard to help the student produce something good. Write notes about the child’s struggles that include suggestions that would be helpful to do at home. Encourage your student to ask their parents for the help too. This may be risky business in some situations. Simply keep trying things here and there to show you care even if it is never met with a response.
“Good two-way communication between families and schools is necessary for your students’ success. Not surprisingly, research shows that the more parents and teachers share relevant information with each other about a student, the better equipped both will be to help that student achieve academically.” The list of ideas below comes from a website called www.graphite.org and they have more information for you too.
Rather than reinvent the wheel be sure to use your own school’s tools for communication, and remind the parents often about the way to get on the school’s website and check for things. If your school doesn’t have such systems in place yet, check out these helpful ideas and apps to help make communication between home and school easier and maybe even a little more fun for everyone. Involve your kids. They will be able to help the adults use the apps and to have other information coming from the school.
Resources/Ideas For Your Convenience
Get started with better communicating to build those worthwhile parent-teacher relationships:
- Parent conferences
- Parent-teacher organizations or school community councils
- Weekly or monthly folders of student work sent home for parent review and comment
- Phone calls
- E-mail or school website
- Discuss topics and spur collaboration with parents and students. Check out Collaborize Classroom.
- See a visual timeline of your students’ progress that you can share with parents. Give ClassDojo a try.
- Reach parents quickly and securely, while engaging your students, too. Head to Remind or ClassDojo Messenger.
- Create a classroom blog or website to get students writing and parents reading. Try Edublogs or Blogger for blogs, Google Sites or Weebly for websites.
- Adopt a multipurpose tool to send announcements to parents, handle grading, and be a digital portfolio for your students. Check out FreshGrade.
- Repurpose a tool you’re (likely) already familiar with. Use Twitter to get information out to connected parents and students.
photo credit: Hey Joe! #PTchat live in KC was an AMAZING experience. TY for reaching out to KC! I applaud your efforts to take #ptchat to the streets…to spark conversations IN COMMUNITIES around questions, issues, ideas relevant to them. #phillypretzelman #ptchat via photopin (license)