The best part about being a classroom teacher is designing the space and orchestrating the learning experiences the way you want. You can infuse your personality and philosophy into your daily work with students. This comes at a cost, however. Any time you place a large amount of people into a small space, getting along can be tricky. There are lots of personalities and personal needs that may not mesh together easily. This creates tension. Matters become worse when students report this friction to their parents who then get involved, adding another personality profile to the group.
It’s not uncommon for teachers to struggle with overcoming the obstacle of positive working relationships with parents. Often times, a lack of information is at the root of such miscommunication. Pulling back the instructional curtains to share rationales and particulars with parents can have a huge positive affect on parent-teacher relationships.
Below are ways to build relationships with parents so that they can understand and support your instructional efforts in the classroom:
- Organize a ‘Meet the Teacher’ event– Many schools require these meet-and-greets, but if your school does not, go ahead and set up time for parents to stop by when school is not in session (early mornings or late evenings tend to work best). You can get to know one another as individuals before assuming your appropriate stakeholder roles.
- Invite parents into the classroom– Seeing you as a professional in your element is eye opening. They can observe your interactions with students, appreciate your approach to instruction and even enjoy the quality of learning their child is exposed to on a daily basis.
- Share your philosophy of education– How you design your classroom space and learning experience is based on your educational philosophy. When you can articulate what this philosophy is to parents, everything else seems to make more sense. They are able to connect the dots when their child shares partial information and they can easily support you once they know where you are coming from and why.
- Offer resources that detail instructional practices– Share the research behind student seating, curriculum, differentiation and any other instructional choice you make in the classroom. You might not have time to meet with all parents and explain your rationale for why you teach in small groups or with 1:1 technology, but when you can send a quick email blast or printable newsletter home for parents to educate themselves on the benefits of your instructional approach, they are much more likely to support the work you are doing with their child.
- Have a listening ear– Sometimes parents don’t care why or even how you do things in your own classroom, but they do want to know that you heard their concerns and requests. Make yourself available in person and/or virtually to listen to them. You might not be able to meet every need or calm every anxious request, but you can at least be open minded and available to hear them out. That one action speaks volumes about how much you care for their child. Parents are often willing to step back and let you take the lead once they know you are aware of their wishes and will do your best to accommodate them.
- Keep parents informed with changes– A lot of anxiety from students comes from a lack of routine. Sometimes as teachers, we have to change things up to meet student needs, district demands or scheduling conflicts. Keeping all stakeholders aware of any changes to ‘regularly scheduled programming’ eases anxiety and builds confidence in your professional decision making. Transparency is powerful.
(Teachers, don’t be afraid to spice up your classroom and have fun. You earned the right to lead your students in the best way you see fit. These tips are meant to encourage the development of your relationship with parents so that they are more involved and supportive of the work you do daily.)
Together, parents and teachers, can be a powerful force in inspiring students to reach their potential and beyond!