By Teachers, For Teachers
From the very first interaction that you have with your students’ parents, you can immediately tell if they will be involved in their child’s education, or if they won’t. We can all agree that when parents are in involved, they will have a better chance in succeeding both in school as well as outside of school. However, sometimes the parents’ involvement may go too far. You may have a helicopter parent who always needs to be in the loop or who’s constantly questions your authority. Or you may have the exact opposite type of parent, who don’t seem to care about anything and never attends a conference or signs a permission slip. Depending upon the school district that you work in, you will probably have a handful of one or the other. In order to have a good parent-teacher relationship, you will need to build one, regardless of how difficult or challenging that it may be. Here are a few hands-on teaching strategies for dealing with parents both overly involved or not at all.
The overzealous, extreme parent is the individual who calls or emails you all of the time for some specific reason or for absolutely no reason at all. They are in constant need to know everything that you do and sometimes question your decisions. The best way to deal with this type of parent is to get to them, before they get to you. This means don’t sit around and wait to pacify the “Helicopter parent,” but instead take the lead and contact them, before they get a chance to contact you. For example, if you know they’re going to call you to talk about the recent math test results, then send a note home with the test results instructing them to call you to set up a time that is convenient for them to come in or call you and discuss the results.
Most of the time, overly involved parents are fearful that they don’t have any control over their child’s education, so it’s hard for them to give up that control to a total stranger (which is you the teacher). As a teacher, you can help to alleviate some of these fears by giving the parent the opportunity to be knowledgeable about what is going on in your classroom. You can do this by giving parents a heads-up when important events or tests are near, or text or call them on a regular basis (once or twice a month) to let them know that you are doing everything in your power to meet the needs of their child. Having a positive, proactive attitude towards these types of parents will go a long way in building a solid foundation for your parent-teacher relationship. It’s also a great hands-on way for you to show that you are in control, can do your job, and that their child will be OK.
Taking this same positive, proactive approach when dealing with underinvolved parents will also help. If you know that certain parents are going to be late to a conference, or will never sign a permission slip or a report card, then you must figure out a way to set them up for success. The best hands-on strategy to do that is to make a few “Brightly colored” copies and send home a daily reminder. If your students are young and have a homework folder, then staple the reminder to the front inside cover. This will help parents physically see the reminders and notes and help them become more involved. It’s a great way to get their attention. Taking a positive, proactive approach is much more effective then complaining about the parent or constantly taking the time to call and remind the parent, which can be embarrassing.
Another way to set underinvolved parents up for success is to give them tips on how they can remember to sign important school forms or show up for a conference. Think about how you remember to do important things. Do you create an alert on your smartphone, or do you place a Post-It note on your refrigerator? Offer these types of tips to the parents who seem to be forgetful. Also, try not to take it so personally, you don’t know what’s going on in their home lives.
Whether you’re dealing with an overzealous involved parent or an underinvolved parent, your goal is to find a hands-on strategy that works for both you and them. Not every single parent is going to meet your expectations. What you have to remember is that you have no idea what their perception is of school. They may have had a tough time when they were a child in school and had a bad experience, so they want to make sure that their child is in an environment where they are getting all of their needs met. Or, maybe the parents were never involved in their schooling so they don’t have any experience of how they can be involved in their child’s. Whatever the case may be, your objective is to create a positive, meaningful experience for both the student, as well as their parents.
How do you deal with such extreme parents? Do you have any teaching strategies that work well for you? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d love to hear what you have to say.
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 Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.