Parent/Teacher Confluence: How (and Why) to Join Forces

Parent-Teacher ConfluenceAs school starts, you’re most likely dreading the Stresses of Semesters Past (SSPs, for short!): long grading sessions, state exam readiness panic or tension with parents.

While not all teaching problems are preventable (we all will, at some point, get behind on homework grading), issues with parents can be circumvented. In fact, by being a little proactive, you may find a new set of learning allies for your students, and more help for you.

The Importance of a United Front

Have you ever received pushback from students’ parents about their behavior in the classroom?

Parents may be surprised that their child is behaving differently in the classroom, but it’s important to remember that school is a separate environment than the one at home — and student behavior can drastically change between the two. For example, a student who is shy in the classroom might not ask for help when he or she needs it (despite the fact that they are very outgoing at home).

Parents can serve as useful allies for teachers as they can provide important background information about a student’s study habits, learning styles and overall struggles at home. Parents and teachers can work together to compare notes, understand the big picture problems, pinpoint particular issues in a student’s learning experience and help students achieve their fullest potential in school. For example, a mom who helps her child with homework can let a teacher know if the student is having trouble with fractions, and a dad may readjust a child’s bedtime habits to make sure he or she is getting enough sleep and is fully energized and ready for school the next day.

In fact, according to Child Trends Data Bank, “students with parents who are involved in their school tend to have fewer behavioral problems and better academic performance, and are more likely to complete high school than students whose parents are not involved in their school.”

That means less guesswork for you, and better results for your students.

Worth the Effort

Taking the time to build a relationship with students’ parents isn’t just helpful for students, it’s helpful for you, too. That’s because involved parents can follow up on disciplinary measures, provide consistency from the start of the day until bedtime, make sure their kids are doing their homework and encourage good classroom behavior.

Besides having the extra support from parents, there are also emotional rewards, such as positive self-perception and higher job satisfaction (according to Child Trends), when you allow parents to help.

Having a rapport with parents will also go a long way when a field trip comes up that needs a chaperone, or your classroom needs supplies. It’s a lot less nerve wracking — and more effective! — to ask for help from parents you regularly work with.

Whatever way you look at it, knowing names, sharing notes and having a continuous dialogue about a child’s education can go far in making your job easier and more effective.

Here are four tips to build great relationships with parents — as well as a few ideas for getting them engaged in education!

    1. Contact parents with good news as often (or more often!) as you contact them for bad news.

Let parents know when their child did something well, said something funny, excelled in the classroom or impressed you. A lot of parents struggle with hearing criticism about their child, so it’s important to include a lot of positive feedback in your meetings too. This is especially important if you’re working together to resolve an ongoing problem, like disciplinary issues. Don’t be afraid to let them know Johnny had a good day with behavior!

    1. Set up regular meetings with parents — and maybe even a home visit.

Make sure you meet with parents regularly to discuss how their child is doing in the classroom. In the event that there is a major issue, it will make things much easier for you to set up a meeting when you already have a relationship with the parents. It will also help ensure that all parents and children receive equal attention (since busy parents might not always reach out first to set up meetings).

    1. Ask parents about their concerns and things they’ve noticed about their child’s performance or feelings about school.

This is a “show, don’t tell” method of demonstrating genuine interest in a student, as well as getting important information. Parents are the experts on their children, after all, and they’ll love being valued for it.

    1. Give a small “assignment.”

Asking a parent to contribute to the classroom — like creating an inspirational poster for the classroom with their child — is a great way to start things off on a positive, cooperative note. Asking a parent to invest in their child’s educational experience is a great way to keep them feeling included all year long, which may be the best strategy in handling Stresses of Semesters Past.

Now go forth and be parentally proactive!