Parental Involvement

Contact between teachers and parents about their child can be an anxious time for both. Getting organized ahead of time is essential for good communication and a productive outcome.

Even after many years of teaching, many teachers still get a little nervous when a parent calls to say that he/she wants to meet with the teacher. Do not let this nervous feeling bother you because dealing with parents can become one of the more positive aspects of the teaching profession.

Establish a partnership

The key to having a beneficial relationship with parents is establishing that partnership early in the year. Your introduction to parents can actually begin before the first day of school if you know who your students will be. Many schools generated computerized labels off your class list. Using post cards, send a note to parents and students welcoming them to your class. Include in your note, if possible, your goals for the year and a supply list for the student. Later in the week, you might send a letter home which describes your behavior management and homework policies as well as some information about you and your educational experience and education. It is also a good idea to have this letter returned to you signed by the student and the parents.

Keep the lines of communication open all year

Communicating with parents throughout the year on a regular basis helps keep parents informed and head off potential problems. After you settle in, you might consider producing a class newsletter highlighting the happenings in the classroom, providing suggestions on how the parent can help at home, and applauding student successes. This would be greatly appreciated by parents because you will find that your students are not always the best source of information to either you or the parents. In addition to written communication, another way to build rapport with your students' parents is to incorporate projects in your curriculum that draw the parents into the classroom. This can be done either by actually having the parents come to classroom as a "special guest" or speaker, or by helping with a project at home that requires their assistance. Be careful about requiring that a parent assist with any project or work. If parents' work schedules do not allow for this, encourage them to get assistance from another respected adult.

As far as you feel comfortable, try to personalize your relationship with students and parents. A parent-teacher conference is not always necessary to resolve problems or discuss the student's progress in your classroom. If you live in the area where you teach, you may see parents at church, shopping, civic clubs, and various other community locations. If you do not live in the community, you may be forced to find more innovative ways to meet and talk with parents on a more informal basis.

All of these suggestions and others you will get along the way will still not take away some of the nervousness that you may feel when meeting with parents. Regardless of how hard you work to relate well to your students' parents, it does not mean that you will be immune to a "confrontational" or "displeased" parent. When such a situation arises, a teacher does not quickly forget it. The tendency is to become defensive and personalize the criticism. Try to avoid this however difficult it may seem. Remember that you and the parents share a common goal: to help the student be successful in school. You may differ strongly on how to attain that goal, but you both have that child's interests at heart. With that in mind, you can find a compromise.

Tips for parent/teacher conferences
Conference

Before the conference
During the conference
Communicating with parents