All teachers know that establishing good relationships with parents is one of the best ways to help students. Summer is the perfect time to create a quick parent partnership plan for the year. - And it's definitely time well spent. With parents on board, you’ll get more learning support at home and you’ll be better able to meet students’ needs in your classroom. Parental involvement is a proven factor in students' success!
If you've been teaching for a while, you probably have your parent communication plan all set. If you're new, or just looking for some new ideas, here are my favorite tips for creating a strong connection with parents:
- Get on board: Communicating with parents can be intimidating, and sometimes even annoying. And at the very least, it's just one more thing to deal with when you're already so busy! That's why it's helpful to take a moment to psych yourself up about creating meaningful partnerships with parents. This Five Minute Film-Festival from Edutopia is full of inspirational stories of positive home-school collaboration. Or you could just watch Kid President. (Not specifically related, but he always has a way of inspiring general awesomeness!)
- Get organized: Before your first interaction with parents, take a good look at your plan for the year and list when and how you can really use parents' help. That way, you won't have to think about it once the kids arrive, and you'll be ready to put those extra hands to work as soon as the volunteer background checks clear! Create a volunteer sign-up on Volunteer Spot or just make a form for parents to fill out at your open house. When possible, assign parents a set job/day/time for the whole year so they always know what to do and you won't have to send schedules and reminders each month.
- Prepare your space: This one is so obvious, but too important not to mention... Create an organized and inviting classroom environment. An organized space sends the message that you are in fact organized and ready for the year. Parents like that, and it helps build trust! Oh, and it's good for the kids too! 🙂 Also, keep parent volunteers in mind as you set up your room. Do you need a table in the hallway for parents to meet with small groups? A bin with directions for clerical volunteers? A clipboard with a class checklist for parents who will meet with kids one-on-one?
- Introduce yourself: Get to know parents as soon as you can. My all-time favorite way to connect with parents is to make a quick phone call before school starts. You’ll learn important information about your students, and you’ll let parents know you value their input and plan to work as a team. Parents might be surprised to hear from you so early in the year, but if you treat the call as a casual introduction and an opportunity for them to share anything they want to share about their child, they won’t feel overly pressured to come up with the right thing to say. Just keep the tone relaxed and cheerful, and keep the call brief. Close the conversation by letting them know how they can reach you with questions and input throughout the year. Contacting them over the phone does take time, (which no one has during the insanely busy days prior to the first day of school), but if you can find a way to make the time, it's truly worth the effort.
- Keep them in the loop: Keep parents informed through simple communication routines. Update parent portals and class websites with general information and forms. A quick weekly newsletter is great! Bullet points and photos are also great. Let's face it. Nobody has time for a lengthy dissertation. As a parent, I appreciate a few key details about what the class has been studying, important upcoming dates, and most of all, I love to hear about easy ways I can support learning at home.
- Appreciate their kids: Show parents that you truly know and value their child with periodic good news updates. It can be as simple as a one-line email, or a quick jot on a sticky-note. Nothing means more to me than a teacher who really "gets" my child and celebrates his little everyday successes.
Invite them in: Ask parents to join you for some fun classroom events or invite them to sign up to be a guest reader or to share real-life examples of how they use math, science or writing in their jobs. Since many parents work and can't make lots of during-the-day events, you can schedule monthly family nights focusing on different subjects or themes. Or establish a casual "open house" time each week where parents are always welcome (but not obligated) to drop by for kids to read their latest piece of writing or show off other work. With the schedule set for the year, even working parents can usually plan to come a few times during the year. Setting aside some time during a once-a-week classroom lunch or even a 15-minute block at the end of the week is a low-pressure way to make parents feel included, and since it's casual and frequent, you'll probably only end up with a few parents at a time each week. - Much more manageable than a whole room full of kids and parents. Field trips and special projects are great times to solicit parent help, and this post includes more tips for putting parent volunteers to work in your classroom and at home.
THE 10-DAY PARENT COMMUNICATION PROJECT
If you're a new or new-ish teacher and would like to start the school year right with a solid parent communication plan, join me in the free Parent Communication Project! It includes daily email reminders with a 10-day "to do" list, broken up in to simple tasks to complete in manageable chunks; plus some information, encouragement and helpful free printables to make the job faster and easier!
P.S. If you prefer the "get 'er done" approach, or if you're starting school soon, you do have the option to speed ahead instead of spreading it out over 10 days.
And if you need a little motivation to get moving on your parent communication project, this might help...
If you sign up for the 10-Day Parent Communication Project before August 15, you'll be automatically entered to win the sweet little back-to-school prize pack shown below!
Not a new teacher, but still want to enter to win?
Plus a $25 Teachers Pay Teachers gift card
(The back-to-school giveaway has ended, but you can still join the Parent Communication Project through September 1.)
CONGRATULATIONS TO SARAH MOOREHEAD, OUR WINNER!!!
Special thanks to my generous and talented friends for donating these awesome resources!
For the giveaway...
- No purchase necessary.
Prize is one Back-to-School Prize Pack shown above.
- Void where prohibited.
- One entry per person.
Giveaway ends Saturday, August 15, at 11:59 p.m. PDT. Winner will be selected randomly and notified via the e-mail provided during newsletter subscription sign up (i.e., the e-mail you used for the mandatory entry) on Sunday, August 16.
- Prize unclaimed after 48 hours from notification is forfeited and Erin Wing reserves the right to select another winner.