The beginning of the year is a great time to start fresh. No matter what the previous year was like, this is a new year, with new kids and new opportunities. The relationships you build with your parents and their children are an integral part of the climate of your year. The first interactions are so important. Parents love to get a ‘warm fuzzy’ about their child’s teacher. Now, that warm fuzzy might look different in an first grade class than from a seventh grade English teacher, but at the end of the day, there are some specific things that we can do to help build a positive relationship with our parents from the beginning of the year. Here are a few things that I’ve done over the years that help my parents feel comfortable in our working relationship.
When I say, be knowledgeable…I’m not talking about content. I’m talking about the kids. At our school, we get data sheets on each child that includes a photo. When the kids come for meet the teacher, I usually look right at them first and greet them by name. I talk to the kids about things that they are interested in so that I can get to know them. I will call parents the first few weeks of school just to tell them about something cute or sweet their kids did. Not to complain about behavior. I take lots of random snapshots of the kids, and text those to their parents so that they can be a part of the daily goings on. When I see students need enrichment, I partner with parents to help get them projects or activities that keep them engaged at school and at home. When they need remediation, I offer to help their kids after school to see if I can get them caught up. I might not be the perfect teacher, but no child will ever be short of love and understanding in my room–EVER. Parents appreciate when you go the extra mile.
I am not advocating telling your parents or colleagues all of your dirty laundry, but…when it will impact your work, sharing a little bit makes you more human. Parents know that we have a life outside of school, but sometimes…we’re so put together all the time…they forget that stuff gets messed up…and you can’t do the things you want to do. Communication helps with this! Last fall, I was sick…A LOT. 🙁 Finally in December, I had a blood transfusion. There were things that I had to change at work. I couldn’t do a few things that I wanted to. My parents were great about it. I got cards and notes, and even some ‘just checking in on you’ emails. It was so sweet. It made me feel like they really did care.
I know different teachers have different feelings about parent volunteers, but, when I can, I have parents come in and help. Even if you don’t have someone come in all the time…do something quarterly. Let them see the relationship you are building with the kids. Have them work with the kids too! It helps parents have an idea of how difficult our jobs are sometimes when they are able to actually try to do what we do every day.
I know that we need parents to do their part, but sometimes, their life circumstances are such that it’s all they can do sometimes to put food on the table and get their kids to school. I’ve seen families deal with cancer, divorce, bankruptcy, death…you name it. These are tough situations that don’t last forever, but will take time to adjust to. As teachers, we NEED parents to be understanding with us, but…in these situations, we need to also be understanding of them and do whatever we can to help their kids transition to their new normal. The world won’t end if some assignments get pushed back. It also won’t end if that parent conference goes 10 more minutes as you help that parent dry their tears before they walk out.
When your parents do things for you, tell them thanks! 🙂 Write them a note, an email, text or a card. During your class celebrations, thank them for supporting their kids. If you do end of the year awards, maybe give your parent volunteers a certificate for helping! Everyone these days is so busy…so, when you are shown appreciation by your parents…remember they are just like their kids. They want to know that you love and appreciate them too! 🙂
Parents are our biggest advocates with their children. When they feel that we care for them as our partners, that transfers into a wonderful pipeline of support at home!
I just recently read a wonderful post on this topic from a parent’s perspective. Check out Jennifer from Cult of Pedagogy‘s thoughts on the relationship between parents and teachers.