Small Things Educators Can Do To Start the Year off Engaging Parents and Families
Every year, schools nationwide have Parent Teacher Conferences at the start of the school year. To start the year off right, set a solid foundation by considering how to welcome families into our classrooms most effectively. The goal is to see every student thrive, and having solid relationships with their parent or adult figure will create a foundation that will help them achieve all the milestones.
Families Are At The Core of Student Success
Parents and families are at the core of the success of our children. As we approach the school year, it becomes imperative that we consider the role of parents and families. The year starts bustling to get the classroom set up properly and the children off to a good start. How much time do you consider the role families will play in your classroom?
Plenty of research points to the importance of engaging and involving parents and families in our schools. Parents are children’s very first teachers, and so we want to do our best to support them as they support their children. The first step is making it a welcoming environment where parents will feel comfortable walking through the door. Consider how they are greeted and if it is a clear and easy path to their student’s classroom. Take a moment to ensure what they will see on the walls will reflect their students’ culture and resonate with them and their families.
Engage the Parent/Guardian in Parent Teacher Conferences
One thing we can all do differently for Parent Teacher Conferences would be to engage. Engagement will create more buy-in from the families, which ultimately will help the educator advance each student’s learning. Consider using communication that flows back and forth so parents can ask questions. If you have information to present, think about what other tools could be used so the parent feels they have the opportunity to respond to what they are being told about their child’s upcoming year without being surprised.
When parents and families are welcomed into the classroom, it is an opportunity to have shared agreements about the kind of support both the student and teacher will need. Make the expectations known to parents so they do not believe it is all up to the teacher. Layout a plan of how the teacher will communicate with the parents and families. Ask for agreement from the parents so that the teacher knows they understand. Two-way communication is imperative to making it work.
As the teacher, have a plan to follow up with the families. Do not let Parent Teacher Conferences be the first communication, and the next time a phone call is made is when a student misbehaves. Communicate the good news and the successes, and the relationship will build much smoother.
The Hard Work of Challenging our Biases
As teachers, there are many biases about parents and families and the assumptions of the people who will walk through the door. Do the work of exploring those assumptions and stereotypes so that there is awareness going into the meetings and those thoughts can be put aside. Sometimes, it takes shining a light on them to realize we are being unfair and that parents deserve a chance to be seen and heard. It is fundamentally believed that parents want what is best for their children, and we need to approach them with that attitude so that, as educators, we give each person a fair chance to support their child and the teacher. Creating parents as partners helps the teacher and the student.
Be Open to the Experience of the Parent and Family
It is crucial to recognize the teacher is coming from a position of power. Do not take for granted that not all parents have the same relationship with education and may need to build trust and understanding with the teacher and administrators. Parents may be intimidated by the teacher. Be open to shared goals and open communication so that everyone wins. Make sure to call each parent or family member by their name so they feel respected from one adult to another.
There are many best practices of how to build trust with families, but it can challenge any overworked teacher with a class of students to worry about. When parents and families feel there is transparency, it begins to build trust. This is why being clear about expectations is key and creating opportunities for two-way communication.
Use tools that take the burden off the teacher, such as email or a student portal. Set time aside for follow-up phone calls a few weeks after the initial conference. If it is planned, it may not seem to be such a burden. Reaching out to parents during the good times begins to build a positive relationship. Most institutions do not focus on the importance of making the family an actively engaged aspect of a child’s education. Many parents do not seek out the relationship either because, generally, it is taught that the child is being taken care of all of the hours they are at school. Providing parents and families with resources such as syllabus outlines, support documents for homework, and instructions on how to do the work, can make a world of difference to any parent.
- Create a welcoming environment for each parent.
- Create an opportunity for two-way communication.
- Know the parent or guardian’s name.
- Make the expectations of the parent/teacher/child relationship clear.
- Teachers need to leave assumptions and stereotypes behind by acknowledging their biases.
- Use time management to work on engaging parents and families in he plan for the quarter.
- Provide parents and families with the resources they need to help their children succeed.
Support is Available
There is support for teachers and administrators to learn how to work with parents and families better. The work of The Core Collaborative is expanding to provide resources for our schools. It will help everyone to learn how to be strategic and effective at engaging families to see every student thrive during all stages of their learning.
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