The little girl’s eyes watched carefully as her parents met her kindergarten teacher for the first time. She noticed the handshakes and adult smiles. She heard her mother laugh when the teacher told a funny story about chasing a stray dog out of the classroom when setting up for the new year. Slowly, the little girl relaxed and moved closer to the teacher from behind her dad’s legs.
“And this is our daughter, Amanda,” her dad said.
“Hello, Amanda. I am happy to meet you,” smiled the teacher, bending down to look in the girl’s face. “Come see your desk with your new orange nameplate. We are all about bright colors in this room!”
Her parents joined her and nodded their encouragement. Her dad even gave his special secret wink that meant he was pleased. Everything will be okay, the girl thought and took the teacher’s outstretched hand.
What happens when parents and teachers work together for the good of students?
Research shows this partnership results in many levels of success for students:
- higher grades
- higher scores on standardized tests
- better social relationships
- higher daily attendance and academic focus
- improved behavior and school adaptation
- higher avoidance of at-risk behaviors (drugs, violence)
- greater interest in post-secondary education
- higher rates of promotion and graduation
How do parent and teachers develop a positive working relationship?
Taking time and investing energy toward a working home-school relationship isn’t always easy. Both sides have to focus on learning, accepting, appreciating, and supporting one another. As Christians, we are fortunate to have the tool of prayer, and we should engage it, along with healthy doses of humility and grace.
As a parent and former classroom teacher, school counselor, and K-12 principal, I have experienced both sides of this powerful team. I asked my FaceBook audience for ideas how to build an effective home-school partnership.
Tips for Educators
Educators offer 10 tested methods for connecting with parents:
- Send a welcome note Day #1 to parents expressing appreciation for having their child this year and extend an open invitation to visit the classroom.
- Invite parents to communicate with teachers and share hopes/expectations for the school year and for their child.
- Gather parent information through a prepared questionnaire about their children as the “experts” to help teachers get better acquainted with their new students.
- Communicate regularly with parents through emails, texts, and notes about classroom activities and school events to develop a positive foundation that can handle problems when they arise.
- Ask parents for help beyond bulletin boards and field trips, using their particular skills and experience to enrich learning for students.
- Save “serious” conversations with parents for face-to-face time, using digital communication methods for quick messages and frequent positive observations.
- Call home! Most parents are used to only hearing bad news from the school on the phone so shock them with encouraging reports which build parent-child relationships as well as school-home partnerships.
- Involve parents with learning/behavior issues and allow them to share past strategies and home solutions, listening well to their words and their hearts for their child.
- Learn home/work requirements that may impede parent participation in school events and teacher conferences, then brainstorm ways to help them feel connected through videotaping, outside appointments, and social media picture posts.
- Hold back on parent judgment. Let negative student behaviors and comments slide by as much as possible and opt for respectful, unemotional interaction between adults to bring fuller understanding.
Tips for Parents
Parents suggest 10 ways to build rapport with teachers:
- Send a note Day #1 thanking teachers for the hard work they do and offering to pray for them regularly as a family.
- Invite the teacher to visit at home or for an ice cream cone with the family to make a personal connection.
- Communicate regularly with the teacher about student progress observed and offers to help, as well as questions and requests.
- Approach problems with respect for the important role teachers play in the lives of children and their professional educational expertise.
- Schedule face-to-face meetings for “serious” concerns, using digital communication for shorter, lighter information sharing.
- Avoid engaging in extended conversation with teachers at drop-off or pick-up or during classroom instruction time and instead schedule appointments.
- Try not to brag about your children and trust teachers to develop positive views of their students and what is important to know about them.
- Allow students to form their own relationships with teachers and only interfere when absolutely necessary, so children learn to bond with important people outside the family.
- Come prepared to conferences or meetings with thought-out questions and items to discuss (with examples) to give the teacher an adequate picture of the concern, but stay open-minded to the solutions as the teacher supplies more information.
- Hold back on teacher judgment. Let poor reports or negative student comments slide by as much as possible and opt for respectful, unemotional interaction between adults to bring fuller understanding.
We Are In This Together
Training and caring for children is hard work, whether at home or school. Neither parents nor teachers are financially compensated for the countless hours required to do their jobs with excellence.
Having this common base, both groups can mutually respect and support each other to share the labor. Home experts and classroom experts make a powerful team, and the result is success for students. Make this year the best yet in parent-teacher partnerships.
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