How Teachers Can Help Parents Support Their Children
Every teacher will have been approached at some point by parents who want to know how they can better support their child outside of school. Whilst we can all pull a few ideas from the top of our heads, here’s our top tips on what to suggest:
Build a Relationship About Learning
It’s often tempting to jump straight in and discuss how to help, but if parents aren’t careful they can quickly alienate themselves from their children… parents can be the last people you seek help from. Make sure that you help them to broach the subject carefully to begin with. If this is done well, they might learn of other barriers to their learning that you, as their teacher, just weren’t aware of.
Have a Great Place for Them to Study
This is something that most of us wouldn’t even think to ask, as we all have the dreaded desk covered in piles of marking or planning, however, not every home has a desk or even a quiet space. Encouraging parents to set aside a quiet area in which children can sit down to study is often more beneficial than anything else you can suggest. After all, if they’re working in front of the television, they’re not going to learn a great deal! If families just don’t have the space, perhaps they could have a designated ‘quiet time’ where children can work, uninterrupted.
Gather Needed Resources
It’s vital that learners have all of the resources they need to complete their studies. This is where technology can seriously help. You’re bound to get asked several times throughout your teaching career for tips on resources, so use a templated letter and build this up over time - when you find a great site you feel your learners would benefit from, write a mini-intro and add it to the letter, which you can quickly print and hand out You might want to pre-emptively send this out at the start of each year.
This should include…
- Curriculum: The curriculum outline for the specific course your pupils are studying. You may wish to simplify this into a more parent-friendly version.
- Past papers: All of the major exam boards have past papers available for learners and are easily downloaded at home - importantly, they also give the mark schemes!
- Recommended revision guides: Most children will benefit from revision guides if they are studying for a specific exam - getting the right one is important, so help them do this.
- The best online resources: A list of the best website to use is really helpful for parents to frame their help around. Sites like Khan Academy and BBC Bitesize are great places to start.
It’s important that children have someone who can help them when they’re stuck and, with the best will in the world, that can’t always be you, their teacher.
Many parents will want to help but simply won’t be able to, whether due to their lack of knowledge or time. Find out whether parents are confident in helping their children themselves, or if there is someone else they can ask to help out - it could be an older sibling or another family member.
Encourage parents to be open in speaking to others about both their children’s needs and, if necessary, their own limitations. If they do need outside help, reassure them that many parents do. If there is no help available, another option is tuition, for which Tutora can help.
Be a Student, Parent, Teacher Team!
Make sure that students know you’re working closely with their parents - this way everything’s out in the open and all relationships will work better. If parents ask not to say anything to their child, try to explain why it’s important to work as a team. Whilst it can be time-consuming, always make sure that parents feel confident in coming back to you if they need more help. Working like this can be incredibly rewarding, as you can help the whole family, not just the child!
Manage Your Time
We understand that these suggestions take time, in an already packed schedule, and have tried to find time-saving measures, i.e. building the resources crib sheet. Here are another couple of tips on this front.
- Think about how you will set yourself up to be available. You will need to agree with this with your school, but it may be worth having a designated ‘office hour’, where parents can come to see you or arrange a call. This will often reduce the amount of time you speak to parents and set things out more formally.
- Think about how you might use emails. Emails can be far quicker to respond to emails than having lots of meetings. If your school is fine with you using email as a way of contacting parents, you can manage parents' expectations by having a contact point online.
- Record your conversations by taking notes and show parents you’re doing so. This way, you can quickly move over old ground and make faster progress. Write down anything you agree parents will do - if they don’t keep up their end of the arrangements, be confident in pointing this out and limiting contact.
Scott Woodley is a qualified Primary Teacher and a Co-Founder of Tutora. At Tutora, we help parents and students find their perfect private tutor - whatever the subject, whatever the age. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter!