Are your students’ parents allies or road blocks?
Education should be student focused. However, it’s often challenging to focus on students’ needs while parent comments, questions, or concerns take up the majority of your valuable time. So, how can we prepare our classrooms to be student focused and change parents into allies rather then road blocks?
The Key? Be Proactive not Reactive!
In other words, don’t wait for parents to get concerned or confused. Instead, get ahead of the curve and prep communication and information for those stakeholders. Don’t put this off til second quarter. Consider adopting one (or all) of the tips below, to connect with parents and keep them informed, involved, and out of your hair!
The earlier you put plans in place to assist parents and make them feel valuable, the sooner you can dedicate your time to what matters – student needs!
1. Keep Parents Informed
Communication is a key element to developing strong positive relationships with parents. However, with 20 – 200 students on your yearly case load, its difficult to ensure you are communicating effectively with each and every parent or guardian. It is too easy to allow one connection to slip between the cracks – resulting in backpedaling your connection throughout the year. Consider the following:
Create a Classroom Website! A Teacher Website can be a quick and easy resource for parents with internet access to find Announcements, Assignments, Important Resources, Phone Numbers, Emails, Curriculum Guides, and more! Depending on your access to classroom technology, a website may be able to serve multiple purposes within your classroom.
Embed Google Docs into Web Tools! A website can be a wonderful tool, but how can you keep it updated without spending time uploading and deleting old content? Using the embed option, its EASY to embed a Google Doc into a website. Don’t worry, this will not give a visitor access to edit your file. Rather, this option allows you to change a document and automatically update it on your website. This could be used to update families on daily announcements or homework assignments – anything that may change day to day or week by week – save yourself some time!
Utilize Scheduled Text & Email Updates! Utilizing tools such as Remind 101 or email scheduling software, you can send updates to your parents immediately or when it is most convenient for you. In addition, using tools to support your communication allows parents to receive updates using an outlet they are comfortable with. Do not challenge parents to step out of their comfort zone to get updates on their own children. Meet parents half way to make the partnership a success!
Friday Reflection Updates! Students find more success when they are given the opportunity to take ownership of their learning. So it is important to implement systems to provide students this opportunity. Consider sending home Friday Reflection Updates, requiring students and parents to find time over the weekend to discuss their success during the past week at school.
Concerned the sheet will not make it home? (Aren’t we All!?!) The Key : Set up the Routine early. Your message may not always make it home, but your efforts to keep parents updated on student achievement will not be forgotten. Additionally, your effort will be a valuable conversation starter when approached by disgruntled parents feeling disconnected from the learning process. Have they looked for the Friday Reflection Update?
2. Keep Parents Involved
While you spend 8 hours a day with their children, parents struggle to stay included in their child’s learning. Provide parents the opportunity to reflect and learn with and from their student when at home. How? Consider using one of the following options:
End of the Week Reflections – Allow students to set goals throughout their week and then reflect on their success. This can also be used to plan student homework completion. Reflection time can be completed at school with the assistance of a peer or teacher. This reflection can also be done with a parent at home using a Parent Reflection Page.
Questions to consider:
- How did last week go?
- Did I meet my goals?
- Set a new weekly goal to start the week off strong!
Invite Parents into Your Space! Every fun activity, experiment, or learning challenge is a wonderful opportunity for you to utilize parents in your classroom! More often then not, teachers are nervous to invite parents into learning experiences and only utilize parents for celebratory events.
While celebrations are outstanding ways to involve parents in students success, it is also valuable to involve parents in the fun of learning! Set one day a month were parents are welcome to join in the fun of learning in your classroom. This may include a Community Outreach Project, STEM challenge, project work day, or even reading time. No need to set up treats or handouts – simply involve them in a student’s “typical learning day” and allow them to see the magic of learning you create for their students every day!
But wait, what if parents don’t attend? That’s OK too. Sometimes it’s the thought that counts!
Quarter/Semester Surveys – An essential element of any good relationship is feeling heard. Therefore, make sure you provide opportunities for both parents and students to reflect on their learning, success, needs, and experiences in your classroom. While the thought of negative feedback can be scary for some educators, any feedback is good feedback! Feedback gives you insight into skills done well in addition to opportunities for growth!
Don’t take everything to heart – remember, surveys are as much for parents & students as they are for you. Sometimes it’s OK to take comments with a grain of salt while also recognizing each response as an opportunity for parents to feel they have been heard by you.
Assessment Reflections – Incorporate student reflection opportunities before & after an assessment or graded assignment. This will allow you to get a strong understanding of how the student was feeling before beginning an assessment, as well as after it is completed. This can be done in multiple ways, including a written response or even selecting an Emoji to describe a students feelings. Share these reflections with stakeholders! Any insight into how a student is feeling throughout their day is valuable information for teachers and parents!
Keep Parents Out of Your Hair
Parents who feel disconnected from the classroom and their students learning often are the most difficult to keep out of your hair! On the flip side, it’s common to encounter a parent who is overly involved in their student’s learning – requesting daily updates, reminders, and above & beyond efforts.
So what can you do?
Be Transparent! Your classroom may have four walls, but I encourage you to start seeing them as four walls of windows! Give parents the chance to see into your classroom and witness student successes. More often then not, negative interactions with parents and teachers are rooted in a concern of trust between the two. Parents and teachers must view themselves as a married couple. Honesty and transparent communication allows for everyone to feel heard, valued, and knowledgeable.
Strive to be Proactive vs Reactive! Here’s that “proactive” word again, but trust me, it’s crucial! While lesson planning your classroom, consider what questions or concerns may be asked by parents. Aim to settle those concerns by repeating the answer through multiple outlets. Beat them to the punch! By doing this, you are ensuring all communication is valuable, rather than responding to the same needs over and over.
Parents can either be a road block slowing you down, or an ally fighting along side your goal to meet students learning needs. The key to ensuring parents stay out of your hair and work to support your efforts is setting up procedures early, to keep them included – Proactive vs Reactive! The earlier you get plans in place to assist parents and make them feel valuable, the sooner you can dedicate your time to what matters – student needs!
Challenge yourself to adopt any one of these ideas to keep parents informed, involved, and out of your hair. Create a valuable partnership with your new parents!