Teachers and Parents: Bridging the Gap
When Parenting magazine and the National Education Association conducted a 2012 survey on parent-teacher communication, 68 percent of teachers reported “difficulty in dealing with parents” — but strangely, 63 percent of parents reported never having difficulties with teachers.
If that weren’t enough of a disconnect, the study also found that more than a third of the parents surveyed “stated their biggest challenge has been teachers’ perceived lack of understanding for their concerns,” while teachers cited “parents’ lack of understanding of their child’s issues” as their biggest challenge.
Other areas of disconnect:
- Conferences: 71 percent of teachers felt that they hold enough parent conferences (twice per school year, among survey respondents), but only 48 percent of parents feel that the number of conferences they have with teachers per year is enough.
- Voicing of concerns: 48 percent of parents “feel that their opinion is always taken seriously by their child’s teachers,” but only 17 percent of teachers feel that their opinions are taken seriously by parents.
- Sharing responsibilities: About 88 percent of parents consider their child’s teacher “a partner in achieving success in school,” but only 54 percent of teachers feel that parents pull their weight at home (“to ensure that kids get the most out of classroom learning”).
- Input: “Although just 7 percent of teachers believe parents aren’t given the opportunity to offer input into and participate in school events and activities,” almost 25 percent of parents say they feel “shut out” of collaborating with teachers.
So what’s going on here? Teachers, it seems, may be suffering in silence, feeling unsupported and unheard by parents. Parents, on the other hand, might interpret a lack of meetings with teachers as a lack of concern (while teachers might be viewing it as “no news is good news.”)
So what’s a busy teacher to do? We asked our Teach100 Mentors — our favorite teaching and education bloggers — how they keep connected with parents, and they had some brilliant ideas. Here‘s how they answered the following question:
“What resources do you recommend teachers use to stay connected with parents?”
- Communicate early and often
- Have a blast (or a blog)
- Embrace technology
- Add a personal touch
- Keep it simple
- You're all in this together
“Create a resource book of classroom facts, contact information, how parents can help their child, key terminology, etc., with a tear-out page for parents to send in if they have questions. This resource booklet is a great introduction to parents that can set the tone for a positive relationship.” — Sandra Countley, Pro Student Teacher
“I feel one of the most important things to start the year is to call each family within the first few weeks of school. Not only to introduce yourself, but to give parents positive feedback about their child. This sets a positive tone for the upcoming school year.” — Monica Evon, iPaddling Through Fourth Grade
“I like starting the year with a letter that explains my goals and how to contact me with any questions. I also make a goal to send at least one positive email a week — this way parents don't dread getting emails from me!” — Carissa, mELTing Activities
“Blogs, email blasts, social media, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Remind, phone calls, text messages — any way, shape or form that the teacher can use to grab hold of the parents' and students' attention is a good way to go. I use all these. I also strongly encourage my parents and my students to follow my blog. My blog, YouTube videos and social media posts reach not only my students and their parents, but the world as well.” — Frank Korb, Art with Korb
“Even in high school, keeping in touch with parents is extremely important. At the beginning of the school year, I compile an email list for the parents of all my students. About once a week I send out a mass email detailing the happenings in my class for that week. In this mass email, I invite parents to respond with questions and concerns.” — Amy Brown, Science Stuff
“Our students' parents are more connected these days than we realize. Teachers should try to leverage what these parents are already using in their daily lives, such as social media. Create a class Twitter account or Facebook page to share what’s going on in the classroom. Parents love being able to stay connected with their child's class as long as its easy and convenient!” — Michael Fricano II, EdTechnocation
“iPad Facetime or Skype allows parents to see their child is happily settled in at nursery, especially if their child was upset when they left.” — Juliet Robertson, I'm a Teacher, Get Me Outside Here!
“Remind is an excellent and free tool to easily connect with and send messages to teachers and students outside of the classroom. Tools aside, I think the most important thing is to set up a weekly or monthly routine that addresses parent communication from the beginning of the year. And be sure to contact parents when good things are happening with their students, not just when they are having issues or difficulties in the classroom.” — Mike Karlin, The EdTech Roundup
“I love to make positive phone calls to parents. They almost always say that they never received a positive phone call from a teacher. Parents are very appreciative. Students are similarly surprised and very happy to have a teacher call their parents about something positive.” — Peter Cincotta, What's So Good About Public Schools in America?
“Identify the parents' best resource for communication (phone calls, mail, social media) and keep the lines open for input. Don't forget positive news as well as concerns and questions. Use both regular and spontaneous contact. As their child's teacher you are, for now, an important member of the family.” — Melanie Taylor, MzTeachuh
“Use whatever works! Relationships with parents can and should be as individualized as relationships with students themselves. What works with one might be overkill with another. In general, an open door policy that welcomes parents into shared goal setting and positive dialogue is a win-win for everyone.” — Lisa Friedman, Jewish Special Needs Education: Removing the Stumbling Block
“Keep it lean: Trying to maintain a class blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, paper and e-newsletter and update your school-based web page basis will burn you out, and it will confuse families. Choose just a few communication streams — at least one non-digital format — update those consistently, and make sure it's crystal clear to parents how they can reach you.” — Jennifer Gonzalez, Cult of Pedagogy
“We need to make sure we communicate with parents that we want what they want: long term flourishing for their kid. As a result, we're privileged (as teachers) to be a part of their team.” — Dave Stuart Jr., Teaching the Core
Wondering how you stack up against our mentors? Here’s how they answered our questions about parent-teacher relationships:
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