Even though you may not see them, the parents or guardians of your students are in your classroom every day. As primary caregivers, they influence how your students think, feel and react. If you work well with parents and guardians, not only will your job be easier, but your students also will find it easier to succeed in school.
And these adults have some very specific expectations of you: to value their children, to teach the mandated material, to encourage achievement, and to work with them as partners for the good of their children. Because these expectations are ones that could reasonably be required of an educator, conducting yourself as a professional will allow you to build the reputation you need to work well with parents or guardians. Be known as a teacher who can make the material so interesting that students talk about it at home. Be known as a teacher who always has the best interests of students at heart and who is willing to work with parents or guardians.
Another important responsibility that you have in trying to connect with the parents or guardians of your students is to create a transparent classroom.
You can do this by providing easily accessible information about your students and their learning activities published in as many different ways as you can manage. Here are some suggestions for creating a transparent classroom that you can adapt to meet the needs of your teaching practice.
- Maintain a class webpage.
- Send home class newsletters.
- Send home a letter introducing yourself.
- Email parents or guardians with good news.
- Invite parents or guardians to visit the classroom.
- Make positive phone calls home.
- Send home positive notes frequently.
- Write positive notes on students’ papers and ask that they be signed and returned.
- Take the time to make comprehensive and thoughtful comments on grade reports.
When you create a transparent classroom, you are not just a teacher who grudgingly shares test dates or other routine information with your students’ families. Instead, actively solicit their participation and support. With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to make sure that everyone knows firsthand what is happening in your class. Your students’ parents or guardians expect to be kept informed about these topics:
- Class policies, rules and consequences for not adhering to them
- Beginning-of-the-year information
- Homework and major assignments
- Tests and other assessments
- Grading concerns
- Due dates
- Field trips
- Special projects
- Resources to help students learn
- Positive things their child is doing
One frequent complaint from parents or guardians is that they are not being informed about homework assignments and dates when important projects are due. Take extra care to make sure your homework policies are published in several different ways and that all due dates are announced well in advance. The families of your students should not have to struggle to find out about homework assignments and due dates.
Parents and guardians also become upset when teachers wait too long before contacting them about a problem their child is having at school. When in doubt, make the phone call. It is far more effective to call home when a problem is small enough to be manageable than to wait until the situation is serious.
When you do reach out to parents or guardians, be sure that what you send home is carefully worded, free from errors, and professional in tone and appearance. Your communications should show that you are a competent, caring educator who has the best interests of their child at heart and who wants to work with them for the benefit of their child.
Although it is important to live up to expectations, here are three important caveats to consider as you reach out to your students’ parents or guardians:
- First, as a professional educator, you have a right to protect your privacy at home; don’t give out your home phone number. Keep your relationships businesslike.
- Second, be sure to return phone calls from families as soon as possible. Make it a rule to call back within 24 hours. Respond to emails within that timeframe as well.
- Third, never forget to treat your students with the utmost respect. To you, an unruly student may be an annoying headache, but to a parent or guardian, that student is a precious child and a beloved family member.