How many of us took “Working with Parents 101” in college? I certainly didn’t! The art of establishing and maintaining relationships with parents is something new teachers are just expected to know. Many teachers, both new and veteran, need help in this area but we are tossed into our jobs and must essentially learn through trial and error.
Dealing with parents was an afterthought when I started my first year of teaching. I just assumed that all of the parents would adore me, immediately trust my judgment, and we’d have a fabulous school year. That’s not what happened! Don’t misunderstand, most of my students’ parents were wonderful and supportive. However, I did have some issues because I didn’t create a partnership with those parents the first couple weeks of school. My hope is that after reading this post, you will walk away with some practical strategies for creating positive relationships with parents. It is best to start establishing and nurturing positive relationships with parents at the very beginning of the school year. However, it’s never too late to start!
Have you heard of the “Relationship Bank Account?” I can’t tell you where this idea came from but I learned about this concept in my master’s program. Every relationship, no matter its significance, operates on a bank account system. Positive interactions with another person are like deposits and negative interactions are seen as withdrawals. As all adults know, if you make a lot of withdrawals and rarely make a deposit, your account will soon be overdrawn. Parents whose accounts are overdrawn will lash out at you and say that you are unfairly “picking on” their child. These parents are uncooperative and will not respond to you in a positive manner. It’s not irrational on their part. Parents love their children dearly and it is hurtful when a teacher only speaks negatively about their child/children. You don’t want to get to this point! I will share the two big things I do in my classroom to establish positive relationships with parents.
- Your first interaction with parents (Meet the Teacher Night, Back to School Night, whatever it is for your school) should be friendly and organized. Introduce yourself with confidence and hand each parent an “All About the Teacher” sheet. This helps parents get to know you as a professional and as a person. I’ve seen teachers who have gone all out on this and made a flip book to describe themselves. I like to keep things simple, so I get some nice paper and print up a letter describing my education, classroom experience, and a brief description of my family. You can make this as simple or elaborate as you wish!
- Quick…before anything happens, send home a positive note! When you initiate that first contact and say something wonderful about their child, parents will start to fall for you. In their minds, you’re saying, “This teacher LIKES my kid!” I will admit, I do a bit of profiling at this point. If I have a child who I can tell will be a stinker or if I have heard negative things about a child, I will make this first contact a phone call. It’s more personal than a note and that parent will be thinking, “Wow, this teacher LIKES my kid AND she took time out of her busy day to call me and tell me how glad she is that my little dear is in her class!” It’s all about making deposits into those accounts! — What should you do if you have that 1 in 500 kid that is difficult from the moment they walk in the door? Follow this advice, trust me! I still speak positively to parents. Some things I’ve said are, “Jessa has amazing handwriting.” or “Brent has a great smile.” Be creative! Those parents already know their child will have issues during the school year and you will be talking to them regularly this year. You must make some early deposits into those relationship accounts.
One easy way to start off positive is through a “Shared Note Home.” In this type of note, students write about their first week of school and the teacher writes a short note at the bottom. Here are some pictures of the types of notes I have used. Both include notes from the student and a note from me. I find that parents love these types of notes because a lot of kids won’t tell their parents what is going on at school or what they are learning.
The first note is contained in my new 5th Grade Back to School Activity Pack. Click on the picture below to check it out.
Yes, you’re incredibly busy the first couple weeks of school but remember that positive contacts with parents will pay dividends all year long! Continue to build and maintain positive relationships all year! Thanks for reading!