By Teachers, For Teachers
As teachers, we all know that a child’s education is greatly enhanced by a parent’s involvement.
Despite this, many of us find it difficult to actually put words into practice—how can we feasibly maintain an authority position in the classroom when we’re bringing in other adults to weigh in on the tasks at hand? It’s a tough pill to swallow, I know, but getting parents involved doesn’t have to be a tug-of-war. Building a collaborative parent-teacher relationship is paramount, but in order to foster success, it’s just as important to ensure that both ends understand each other’s perspectives.
Here are a few parent-teacher collaboration strategies to get parents positively involved in their child’s education.
Parent-teacher conferences give you the opportunity to boost communication about their child’s progress. Similarly, it affords you the opportunity to extend the communication lines beyond the four walls (i.e. between home and school), as well as develop strategies and plans for the students’ future together.
Because there are so many vital opportunities here, a successful conference may take a bit of planning on your part. First, you must send home a note to confirm a day and time of the conference. Next, you will have to prepare examples of everything you want to address. Last, you have to prepare for parent feedback and follow up on any strategy or solutions you have made.
Many teachers create a special open house or back-to-school night. This meet and greet is a great way for parents to get an inside look into what their child is doing all day long. It’s also the perfect time to recruit parent volunteers. More about that in a minute.
To make this a successful night, send out a personal invitation to each family and plan a presentation that will knock the parents’ socks off. Make sure to include a brief section about yourself, as well as your goals for the year.
Like many teachers, parents also worry about interfering or simply don’t have the necessary skills to help out. As a result of apprehension, you’d be hard-pressed to see parents fighting over the chance to volunteer—don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can encourage parents to join in on the fun by providing them with opportunities to come to the classroom or give them specific responsibilities that’ll actually take a load off of your plate. The latter would benefit from a bit of “lead and follow” on your part to manage expectations—take the parents through all the necessary steps of their responsibilities and then let them demonstrate them for you until they’ve got it down pat. At the end of the year, collaborate with your students to throw a surprise party to reward and acknowledge the hard-working parent volunteers.
On orientation day, my daughter’s kindergarten teacher told us that we could text her as early as 5 a.m. with any concerns. Now that’s what I call making yourself available. Now, if you’re not too keen on the idea of a parent calling you at 5 a.m. that’s OK (neither am I). Instead, set aside specific hours throughout the day when parents can contact you with any concerns they may have. Make sure to give them a variety of contact points to be sensitive to their schedules and personalities as well (i.e. e-mail, text, phone, web form, etc.).
Most parents have the same goal as you—to make sure their child succeeds. Keep parents informed of what is going on in their child’s life at school by making a weekly newsletter or creating a classroom website. Let parents know how they can reinforce what their child is learning at school, at home. Contact parents regularly for good news, as well as bad. There are also plenty of apps to help you streamline your communication options with parents—go that extra step to ensure that they are well informed of their child’s education.
The key to successful parent-teacher collaboration is to become a team. This collaboration is the most powerful tool in helping a child be successful at school. In order to have a successful partnership, each party must value what the other brings to the table. As parents and teachers learn the value of this collaboration, they can create an environment that supports the ability for all students to succeed.
How do you collaborate with parents? Do you have any specific strategies that work for your classroom? Please share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas.
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.