What do you wish you knew when you started teaching? Stepping into a new role is never easy. It is challenging to adjust to a new environment, new coworkers, and new requirements. These are challenges at any new organization, however, there is a special challenge for new teachers and that is parent engagement.
Working with parents can be a challenge and also a benefit. It depends how you engage with them and communicate with them. The following is information gathered from conversations with real teachers reflecting on their early years.
Getting Parents Involved
“I wish I knew the power of getting parents involved early.”
The role of the parent and the role of the teacher are very different but they have the same goal. That goal is to see the student’s success. The sooner this is realized the quicker parents and teachers can see their work as partners rather than conflicting parties. Bringing parents in the classroom can bridge the gap between the home life and the school life and see that two work together. A positive relationship with a parent can open the door to communication about goals and expectations. Misunderstanding and miscommunications are typically where conflicts arise so beginning that relationship early is key.
Letting Parents Know You Care
“Parents want to know that you know their child and care about them.”
There is a common quote that says, “People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” The same goes for parent and teacher relationships. The parent may not remember the exact detail of the 7th page of the state assigned curriculum but they will remember if you made them feel confident about where their child was spending their time in the classroom. If you can clearly communicate to the parent that you understand their child and their needs this can do wonders in building those essential relationships.
Communicate Early and Often
“The more information you put out there, the less time you spend answering questions later.”
My old boss would tell me, “If I need to ask for an update, you are not being proactive enough in your communications.” To solve this I would give regular updates in a channel I knew he could see them in and so time would be saved and questions would be answered before they were asked. This makes life easier for both parties, the parent doesn’t need to make a phone call and you as a teacher don’t need to answer one if the information is shared in the correct place.
Communicate With Positivity
“I wish I knew how powerful frequent feedback and praise could be!”
As you can see from the image above, a phone call from the school to the dinner table can lead to some concerned eyes. Humor aside, the importance of positive reinforcement can do wonders in a classroom. From the parents perspective if they get a call or a message in an app from a teacher sharing how great their child is doing that changes the dynamic of the dinner table. The parent is proud and encouraging, supporting the child in the behavior that was acknowledged. Consider the amount of negative news that is constantly surrounding us, this will allow for that positive relationship to develop further making for happier parents, students, and teachers.
Communicate Where Parents Are At
“I would have done more than just phone calls and newsletters.”
I can write the most amazing blog post in the world but if I print it out and put on my desk it brings zero value to potential readers. Alternatively, if I publish it on our website and promote it over channels I know it will reach people it will be much more effective. It is rare to receive a cold phone call you’ve enjoyed. I don’t want to do a survey and I don’t believe I won a free cruise. In the same way, when you are communicating in channels that may be overloaded and inconvenient, such as, phone calls, emails, or paper flyers, it would not be as effective as reaching parents where they are choosing to place their attention. The place of attention of choice for most parents, teachers and most everyone else is our mobile phones. A quick push notification can be an easy and convenient method to reach parents.
Is there anything else you would recommend? Leave a comment below.