A child’s academic success is enhanced when teachers and parents are partners in their education. Research continues to verify that parent involvement is important and is positively associated with academic performance. (Hara & Burke, 1998; Hill & Craft, 2003; Marcon, 1999; Stevenson & Baker, 1987.) So how can teachers build a good and collaborative relationship with parents? Both parents and teachers have expectations of each other. Parents expect teachers to educate their children, so they will be successful, while teachers expect parents to support the teaching that happens at school, at home. When both parents and teachers are able to communicate well and understand one another’s expectations, they will have the basis to work as a team for the benefit of the student.
Consistent communication is key to building trust with your students’ parents. It’s important, for example, if you tell a parent you will contact them, that you do so. It is also important that you communicate with the parents of students that are doing well in class, not just with those whose children are struggling.
Looking more closely at the research, there are strong indications that the most effective forms of parent involvement are those which engage parents in working directly with their children on learning activities in the home. Programs which involve parents in reading with their children, supporting their work on homework assignments, or tutoring them using materials and instructions provided by teachers, show particularly impressive results.
Along similar lines, researchers have found that the more active forms of parent involvement produce greater achievement benefits than the more passive ones. That is, if parents receive phone calls, read and sign written communications from the school, and perhaps attend and listen during parent teacher conferences, greater achievement benefits accrue than would be the case with no parent involvement at all. However, considerably greater achievement benefits are noted when parent involvement is active--when parents work with their children at home, certainly, but also when they attend and actively support school activities and when they help in classrooms or on field trips, and so on.
Our courses, Conducting the Parent Conference or Engaging Parents to Increase Student Achievement, address many ways to successfully communicate with parents.
In the 21st century classroom it is important that teachers communicate with parents in a way that is most convenient for them. Family dynamics have changed substantially over recent years. There are many single-parent families, families where both parents work full time, and families where extended family members are in the home. It’s important to take your families’ circumstances into consideration when structuring your communications. For example: many parents may prefer emails or texts instead of letters or phone calls. Some other ways of communication may include:
Annual School Calendars
Having an Informative School Website
Workshops for Parents
Using the Beginning of the School Year to Build Relationships
Registration time is a great opportunity to take the initiative to meet the parents before the school year begins. This is the first time you will be meeting your students and their parents, so it’s very important to make sure your first impressions are warm and welcoming. This is a great time to get their email addresses and phone numbers, as well as ask them what the best time and way to contact them would be. It also would be helpful to send home a student information sheet asking for basic information, such as the name their child prefers, their names and the best way to reach them. Additional information, such as food allergies or specific concerns they have could be included. You could provide an additional information sheet for parents to keep that would include a calendar of school events, phone numbers and times when you can be reached, and an email address and, perhaps something about you and what you want from the upcoming year.
These ideas are a great way to get started on building trusting teacher-parent relationships that will help foster cooperation and result in greater academic success for their children and your students.
CE Credits Online has been providing online professional development courses to teachers in NYC, LAUSD, and across the country for almost 20 years.