Keeping Parents in the Loop
There are numerous ways you can keep parents in the loop. Like I said in my previous post, they more informed they are about their child’s progress, the less frustrated and combative they are. Work with your parents! They are part of the educational team!
- Class Newsletters
- Class Websites
- Online HW connections
- Online Grading accessibility
- Posting homework online
- Weekly email updates about what you are working on in the classroom.
- Email individual parents if you are monitoring a student’s behavior or progress.
- Blogs or Facebook – be sure to discuss this with your site administrator first. Some districts have policies against blogs. You might use it to put out information for your parents but restrict posting access. These may also need to be closed groups with only your students or parents included. Again, there is a monitoring issue. Cyber bullying is very real and dangerous.
Remember that some parents may not have regular access to a computer or time to regularly check their emails. Some parent may prefer the paper copy.
When a parent believes you’re keeping them in the loop, they’re much less defensive and combative. Let your parents know when their child is doing a good job, as well as when there is a problem. It’s more common for a teacher to call a parent when there is a problem than just calling to say what a good job their child is doing. It shows you really care about their child and can warm a parent’s heart, helping them to be supportive. Surprise them! I’ve had parents tell me it was the first time a teacher ever called just to pay their child a compliment. That’s sad.
Talk to your grade level team mates about what you are doing.Offer to make copies of an activity you like. Always ask before using another teacher’s idea. Talk with your custodians and if you need something, ask them politely if they would do something when they have a chance. If you are taking your class to music, PE or the library, be on time and be sure all of your student go to their classes. I used to teach music and my first year, one of the first grade teachers would keep students from my music class to make them clean out their desks or finish work. Then she would send them to me one at a time as they finished up disrupting my class 5 or 6 times every couple of minutes. I felt it was complete disregard for me. (She didn’t do it a third time though. I sent the students back in the same order at the same time intervals disrupting her class in the same way. Then I let the principal know what I’d done!)
Give the principal a heads up on anything that could end up in his/her office or is out of the ordinary. Talk to your site administrator as soon as possible whenever you believe a parent may pay the office a visit. Let him/her know what happened, how it happened, why it happened, what you said or didn’t say, etc. Be honest; if you said something you shouldn’t have, admit it so he/she can diffuse the situation. Examples may include when:
- A child gets hurt
- A parent is really angry – to the point you think they may go to the principal.
- A conference/ meeting goes badly.
- You get a threat.
- If you are doing something that could be controversial
- Before you veer off any district adopted curriculum – this does not include using any supplementary materials but an entire unit or activity.
There are several levels of communication within a school environment.
Teacher to student
Student to teacher
Teacher to parent
Parent to teacher
Teacher to teacher
Principal to teacher
Teacher to principal
Always strive for effective and polite communication between all personnel in the school environment and that includes, librarians, special educators, music, art and physical education teachers, office staff and we cannot forget the people who keep the school in shape – the amazing custodians. Treating everyone with respect will get you far. Classroom teachers are honestly only one aspect of the school and it’s easy to believe teachers are at the top of the pyramid. But a dirty classroom or school affects student learning as much as teaching does.
Nonverbal communication includes eye contact, body posture, hand gestures, and tone of voice. Listening to parents or even students while sitting with your arms crossed over your chest gives the impression you are not open to what is being said. In essence, it says, “I hear you but I’m not really interested and don’t really care. I’m going to do what I’m going to do and if you don’t like it, that’s tough”. You would say that verbally to a parent, teacher or child, but your actions and body posture say it for you. Listen actively – not passively. Find out what the problem is. It may be something simple like you communicate with parents by email but the parent seldom has time to get online. All they need is a paper copy of the email and you can solve the problem.