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Turn Parents Into Partners Via Better Parent-Teacher Communication

Natalie Schwartz

Turn Parents Into PartnersA high school English teacher told me about a student who struggled with analytical writing and avoided it by skipping her homework assignments. The students’ parents constantly pressured the teacher to overlook the missed assignments. A third grade teacher told me the mother of one of his students left twenty-minute messages on his voice mail every day and showed up in his classroom unannounced. A middle school teacher who gave an exam the day after Halloween said she received an e-mail from a parent containing a four-paragraph poem titled, “The Grinch That Stole Halloween.”

Adversarial parents can create frustration and impede your progress with their child. To foster positive relationships with your students’ parents and encourage their cooperation and support, try the following three-part approach:

 Open the Lines of Parent-Teacher Communication

To start the year on a positive note, send home a detailed but easy-to-read welcome letter that contains information about your policies, expectations and curriculum. At parent orientation, tell parents about yourself, including your background, your teaching style, and your philosophy on homework and tests.

In both the letter and presentation, give parents your contact information and welcome them to get in touch with you if they have any questions or concerns throughout the year. Your welcome letter and presentation give you the opportunity to make a good first impression. If you come across as approachable, parents will feel comfortable contacting you if they have a concern, rather than your principal.

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Maintain the Home-School Connection Via Better Parent-Teacher Communication

 To keep parents informed, send home a letter, newsletter or notice regularly about what’s going on in the classroom. If you keep parents in the loop, you will receive fewer phone calls and e-mails. Parents also appreciate advance notice of upcoming assignments.

If you’re an elementary school teacher, invite parents to come into the classroom to read a book, share information about their cultures, or demonstrate a hobby. Middle school and high school teachers can invite parents in as guest speakers if they have a career that’s relevant to the curriculum.

Tackle Parent-Teacher Communication Problems Constructively

 If a student is struggling with an academic, behavioral or social issue, contact the parents as soon as possible to enlist their help in resolving it. Keep in mind that parents are sensitive to negative comments about their children.

Acknowledge the child’s positive attributes before expressing your concerns. Listen to the parents’ input because they probably have some helpful insight about their child. Reassure them that their child can overcome the issue and succeed if you all work together. Let the parents know that you share their goal—the academic success of their child.

Share your tips and partner-parent approaches in the comments section!