How to communicate with parents effectively and respectfully
Do you communicate with parents often? Parent communication can be scary, especially if you are a first year teacher. Teachers are always hearing horror stories about helicopter parents, aggressive parents, or parents who just never pick up that phone. Fortunately, I have figured out a few ways to make parent communication as painless as possible.
So why do we communicate with parents?
Parent communication is the bedrock behind good classroom management. If you have a parent in your corner when you are trying to help get little Jimmy on track, then you will be going. School is all about a team of stakeholders coming together to facilitate the education of students, and with that comes involving the people who raised students or who are their guardians.
That, and we need to notify an adult who cares for them when they may be failing or behaving inappropriately in class. In any event, it is important to know how to communicate with parents in a respectful way and build that relationship with them as partners and not enemies.
So how do you communicate?
First things first, you need to introduce yourself to parents. You need to let them know what subject your teach and make that first communication the same as any other interaction in adult life. Polite and introductory. I like to send a newsletter-style email introducing myself, my credentials, and giving some highlights of activities I look forward to facilitating for students. From the jump, this becomes a positive interaction with parents because you aren’t contacting them with a problem.
Many first year teachers or even teachers early in their career can feel overwhelmed with the idea of letting parents know their children are struggling in class. It can be terrible to receive as well. The key to communication like this is to always ally yourself with parents. Let them know you are here to help, not hinger. You see the potential in their child, and though this is a small hiccup in their education, they can definitely recover with some modifications.
This way, when you do need to contact them, they know who you are.
When you do need to address problems, you start off with a quick reminder of who you are, give a positive comment about their student, and then you get into the meat and potatoes of your communication, whether its that little Jimmy is chronically late to class or being excessively chatty during direct instruction. But do not skip giving a positive about the student. Parents love to know that you recognize their child’s potential. And it’s true, as teachers, we know every child is capable of so much more than they themselves give credit for. So position yourself as being in that student’s corner, just as you are.
Make communication frequent, and not always bad
I try to make sure my parents know who I am. I send positive notes, I send pictures of really well-done one-pagers, or even give them an update on positive behavior after I have contacted them about negative behaviors. Making sure they know who I am makes it so that we have a relationship.
I know who little Jimmy’s parents are, and it all goes towards knowing how to create a plan for learning for him. If I know little Jimmy has super supportive parents that let me call them during class to speak to him, then that works in my favor. If I know maybe parents are more hands off, I know to look for other supportive adults in his life, or that I need to step up as the source of authority.
All in all, parent communication does not need to be a headache.
Want access to a free set of parent communication templates I use?
Check out the form below and I will email them directly to you!