Kind. Caring. Respectful. These are often adjectives that parents provide when explaining what they hope for in a new teacher. It’s easy to see how a teacher who possesses these characteristics would help students feel welcome and comfortable in the classroom. But what about parents? It is equally as important to build positive relationships with parents. We must make sure our students’ families know that they, too, are welcome and valued as partners in their child’s education. Countless research indicates that parent involvement is a key indicator in student success.
The Importance of Relationships
It may sound overwhelming that teachers should build relationships with every parent. Oftentimes in kindergarten through second grade classrooms, this means around 30 or so new parent partnerships are developed each year. For upper elementary and secondary teachers, there are even more! However challenging this may be, it is important to remember to look at parents as partners.
Most of us did not choose a career in education specifically to make an impact on parents. However, it is extremely important! When you build positive relationships with families, the year will go so much smoother! Now, this does not mean learning every single detail about a family. It’s more of making a connection with the family, so they know and understand that you are invested in seeing their child succeed. It is about developing a relationship built in trust. It is getting to a level where the teacher and parents can call each other and have an open conversation when needed – for praise and for concerns.
Now remember, that this does not happen overnight, and it must be intentional. Yes, it’s going to take time up front that you’ll likely feel that you don’t have… but trust me! It’s worth every second to get this started in the beginning.
A Few Simple Ways to Build Relationships
A Letter to Build Relationships
As with students, relationships begin on the first day! With that being said, start the year off on a positive note! Send home a friendly letter introducing yourself and goals for the classroom. Simply put, let parents know who you are! These Welcome Back postcards work well as a mailed note home once you get your roster, or even a cute little note on the students’ desks for Meet the Teacher Night. These offer teachers the perfect way to stay focused on the students while beginning to build relationships with parents.
Positive Notes to Build Relationships
Also, teachers can and should send notes home about good behavior, student effort, or other positive mentions. By doing this, trust will be built with parents early on. Ultimately, it will make difficult conversations much easier when you have already built a trusting relationship. Also, parents will be more receptive when that positive relationship is in place.
We all know that there are some students who would get a positive note everyday if teachers had the time, and then there are those students on the other end who are more difficult to manage. For some students, it’s a struggle for the teacher to find a silver lining. Trust me, it will get easier! Just know that every child has something good about him or her. You may just need to think about them from a different light.
Building Relationships with Positive Behavior Calls
Many teachers, especially new teachers, often make a big mistake when first contacting parents. Oftentimes, the initial contact with parents is due to a negative reason. The child has made some poor choice that has led to parent contact. Thus, the teacher is often nervous to make the call and parents can sometimes be upset and defensive. When this happens, the conversation does not always go as planned. Therefore, take the time to make positive behavior phone calls.
To make these positive phone calls home less stressful for you to initiate, you should most definitely have a plan for your conversation. You may also find it helpful to use a script to guide your phone call with students’ families. What’s that? You don’t have time to write out scripts? I’ve got you covered! You can grab these powerful communication tools for FREE below!
These conversation scripts will help you be more confident in your conversations with families. Whether you’re just introducing yourself or sharing about student progress, the prompts included in this resource will help you take the leap and make the call!
A Word of Caution
When making phone calls home, it’s important to protect your own privacy. Do this by using a school phone to call the parent. You do not want to share your personal phone number with parents. Some may be very respectful and would never take advantage of having a direct line to the teacher, but some do not have that perspective. Think about it this way, you do not want a contentious parent having 24-hour, unbridled access to your number. Whether they are frustrated with something that happened in class or school in general, they need to communicate through school channels, not your personal cell phone. Some teachers simply dial *67 before dialing the parent’s number. Others use Google Voice to reach out. Google Voice allows you to use a Google phone number from your personal cell phone.
Relationships Are Key
It’s not easy to do. It takes time that is hard to give. But, making an intentional effort to build relationships with students’ families is one of the most important things you can do as a teacher. This shows the families that you are truly invested in seeing their child succeed!