Maintaining connections with the families of your students is valuable and important. But it can be difficult — and even time-consuming or overwhelming. After all, each student is different. As is his or her home situation.
Here, nine middle and high school teachers talk through the ways in which they cultivate meaningful relationships. Think classroom websites, calls home to celebrate the good stuff, and so much more:
Tips, Suggestions, and Recommendations
“I like to view a student’s parents or guardians as part of my team. It’s all too easy to call home to complain about a student’s behavior; but with my most challenging students, I like to call home to connect with the parents, learn more about my student, and figure out a plan that will benefit the student at home and in my classroom. The last thing I want is for a parent to feel like I’m attacking their child or their parenting style. I would much rather reach out to them and work together to address any behavioral or academic issues the student is having.” – The Daring English Teacher
“Just listen. Many parents just need someone to listen to them and not interrupt. When we have trouble with a student we can go and vent to one another, seek out a resolution, or get advice. Many parents, especially our single parents, don’t always have a sounding board and just want someone to hear them.” – Red Stick Teaching Materials
“Each teacher calls their first-period parents and guardians before the school year starts, to make introductions and see if there are any questions that need answering. We then invite parents in to help us celebrate the first day and get the school year rocking with music and festivities out on the patio. I like to present a slideshow during this open house that presents myself and my family, so parents know I’m a real person just like they are. We also encourage one another to make positive phone calls home on a weekly basis and celebrate the little things that come together to make an exemplary student. If parents reach out to us, we get back to them within 24 hours. I send home newsletters, welcome postcards, and other forms of communication on a regular basis as well.” – The Colorado Classroom
“I have a website for each of my classes. Each one has information on the course and on upcoming activities and assignments. I also post pictures of things we’ve been doing in class. This semester, I’m hoping to send out a newsletter just before interviews so parents can come already knowing a lot of the things I normally would spend time telling them during the interview. That way, we can spend more time talking about the student. Both the newsletter and the website help parents feel more connected to what’s going on in the classroom as well as let them know about the work their child may or may not be doing!” – Room 213
“Always be honest with students’ parents, as you would want someone to tell the truth about your child. While parental contact may be intimidating, a teacher’s honesty is welcome and most always taken to heart and with gratitude, as it shows that the teacher cares about the child.” – Literary Roses
“Celebrate the good stuff with parents! It’s so easy to get caught up in the lesson plans and activities and meetings and grading that we often forget to enjoy and celebrate our students’ successes. Maybe your student just earned the highest test score they’ve ever gotten due to their hard work and effort in class, or maybe your student has a great attitude even though they find the content challenging. These are awesome opportunities to connect with parents, to build relationships with them, and to motivate our students using genuine, specific compliments!
I wrote a postcard to the parents of a student last semester to tell them that their daughter was a pleasure to have in class due to her great attitude and awesome work ethic. The student came into class and thanked me for the note. It meant so much to her that she comes back to visit me even though she’s moved on to a different class!
Building relationships with parents and students is so important, and it has a huge impact on student learning. The time I’ve spent celebrating the good stuff with parents (and students) has proven to be worth every second.”- Mabel Math
“Be clear and consistent with your communication. Our school is divided into teams, and each team commits to sending out a team newsletter every week. Most parents receive it via email, but we send paper copies to those that need it. We’re also really consistent with planner expectations so parents can gauge how a student is doing just by taking a look at their planner. It’s a great way to reach most parents— some need extra or different communication and we can focus in on those efforts more efficiently with the routine info given out in a clear and consistent way.”- Activated Education
“I’ve found that being very upfront about parent communication can have a positive impact. At the beginning of the year, I create a policy for communication with parents and hold myself to this policy. I tell parents that I will always respond to their emails within 24 hours. This has worked very well for several reasons. First, it holds me accountable and prevents me from procrastinating. Second, it gives me time to think about and process those emails that are a bit more challenging. Ultimately, I find this system builds a sense of trust and creates a positive working relationship between teacher and parent.” – Colin ‘Neill
“At the high school level, students are often involved with a variety of extracurricular activities including sports, theater, and clubs. I find that going to after-school and evening events is a wonderful way to meet parents and get to know them in a setting that may be less threatening than the classroom or parent conference nights. Then, if challenges with their children arise, I’ve already had positive contact with the parents and it’s easier to bring up the difficulties.” – OCBeachTeacher