Honesty time. I was terrible at parent communication when I first started teaching. Like, I avoided it at all cost. I was terrified of parents and did not want to talk to them. I think that isn’t really a strange response as a first year teacher, but it did not work well for me.
The next problem was…I didn’t change that for about four years. Whoa. I can finally admit to this because I have learned from my mistakes. I am here to tell you, if you feel the same way–keep reading. I think this will help.
1. Talk Early, Talk Often
After you meet the parents on Meet the Teacher Night, don’t let too much time pass before you reach out to those parents again. It seems weird, but the more time that passes, the more awkward it becomes to reach out to the parents. Find out the best way to communicate with each parent (e-mail, phone, in person) and use that. I have the parents fill out a form on Meet the Teacher Night that tells me this information.
2. More Positive than Negative
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know it is easy for us to get annoyed with some students (maybe all students at times lol.) An important part of parent communication is speaking the positive. As a mom, I know how wonderful it is to hear great things about your child. I also know my child isn’t always perfect. Balance is key. I send home these Bright Spot Notes often with students. I really *look* for reasons to send them home.
When the parents receive these notes, I always get an e-mail, call, or a “hey thanks” in the parent pick-up line. It really means the world to the parent and more importantly–the child. For a long time, it was easy to overlook the good things. The bad moments really stuck out to me. Now, I have to alter my thinking a bit but it works wonders for parent communication.
3. No Public Shaming
Oh boy, this one can be a little controversial. I despise clip charts. I have been know to have them because that is what the campus required. Thankfully, that is not the case at my current campus.
Public shaming is more than clip charts though. Sometimes we do not realize how quickly a student can become embarrassed. In no way am I saying we should coddle our students. However, we do not like to be publicly shamed either, right? There has to be a better way.
When redirecting, pull the student to your desk, squat down beside them, or talk to them privately. More than anything, remember how important tone is to kids. What does this have to do with parents? Everything. The very first thing that child will do is tell them about the public shaming incident (whatever that may be.) In that moment, you have destroyed whatever relationship you have built with that parent. I have been guilty of this and learned from it.
Now, I send home these Time for Growth slips. Of course, if there is an urgent issue I will make a phone call. If someone harms a child, I will get the principal involved. We all know protocol. I am talking about the daily minor infractions.
I bubble in the section I feel like the child need to work on and that is their area for “growth.” I also never plop this on the student’s desk in front of his or her peers. I privately give it to them. Parents really appreciate the way this is handled and I have had wonderful feedback from this process.
Also, to put into perspective, I teach 4th grade and used this in 5th and 3rd. These kids are not too old for a form of communication such as this.
Communicating with parents can be hard but if done right, your year will go a lot smoother.
I hope these tips have been helpful.
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Have a Great Week!