July 26 is National Parents’ Day. This US day of tribute to parents has fallen on the fourth Sunday in July since 1994, when congress passed “The Parents’ Day Resolution” (National Parents’ Day).
Among the many ways we can celebrate parents is to acknowledge how crucial they are when it comes to their children’s education. Teachers, especially, understand the importance of parental involvement when it comes to student success. “Children whose parents were identified by teachers as more positively involved had higher levels of prosocial behaviors and more academic success” (“The Importance of Positive Parent-Teacher Relationships”). Without a doubt, it makes both teachers’ and students’ lives easier – and students’ futures more promising – when parents and teachers have a strong, cohesive relationship.
Members of Pitsco’s Teacher Advisory Group (TAG) agree:
- “Having great relationships between parents and teachers is so important and may become even more crucial if schools can’t meet face-to-face. Education, at it’s best, is a team sport. I can teach like my hair is on fire all day and do a great job. But if parents are willing to put in a little effort at home, the results can be amazing. It can be as easy as reading to and with your child every day, asking questions about their day, using everyday events like grocery shopping and cooking dinner as teachable moments, and letting the child know that the parent values education. They say it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a village to educate one as well!” – Chris Gibson, STREAM lab teacher
- “Making a positive connection with parents is key to having a strong relationship. It’s beneficial to students, parents, and teachers to have a strong relationship.” – Natalie Vanderbeck, Grades K-5 title math teacher
- “Establishing healthy parent-teacher relationships contributes to a child’s school success. Feeling good about school and being successful in school are extremely important. Communication effectively provides important feedback from the parent about the child’s academic and social development. Research shows that one of the most important factors affecting a child’s performance in school is how involved their parents are in their education.”
– David Lockett, STEM/IT/robotics teacher
So, we know the parent-teacher relationship is important. But how do we make it work when faced with conflicting schedules, inherent biases on both sides, and potential misunderstandings just waiting to bog things down? To delve into the best ways to create and maintain strong relationships with parents, we tapped some of our TAG members for their insight.
Perhaps the best way to nurture relationships with parents is to be proactive. Reaching out to parents at the beginning of the year, and continuing to reach out throughout the year, goes a long way to keeping the lines of communication open.
- “I try to make a few phone calls/emails per week with a quick, positive comment. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do, and if an issue does come up in the future, the parents are much more likely to work with you because you’ve already had a positive exchange.” – James Brown, STEM teacher
- “When major projects, due dates, announcements, etc., are issued, I usually include the parents in the correspondence to give more of a community feel.”– Everton Henriques, engineering and technology teacher
The Accountability Factor
Growing up, my siblings and I learned early that trying to pull an end run around our parents was virtually impossible. They were almost always on the same page. And if they weren’t, their answer was, “What did your (mother/father) say?” The same could be said between our parents and teachers. So frustrating! It didn’t keep us from trying, but we rarely succeeded.
Likewise, I remember seeing a PSA in which, during a parent-teacher conference, a young student is translating for his mom. The teacher mentions that the student sometimes gets chatty and disrupts the class. When the student translates this to his mom, however, it changes into glowing praise from the teacher. The mother, knowing her son, immediately corrects him, knowing full well that’s not what the teacher said.
Kids will always try to avoid punishment or a bad report; it’s what they do. And parents know their kids. So, when parents and teachers are constantly on the same page, it keeps students accountable.
- “I’ve definitely noticed some students are more ‘honest’ with their work and show consistent/improved timeliness as a result.” – Everton Henriques
- “I love having the lines of communication open for my parents as it makes the school day easy. One thing that many parents say to me is that they like that I share the daily work, videos, and notes about their child as it serves as a great conversation starter when their child comes home. Most kids will say that they had a fine day, but the parents can say, ‘What about the poster you made or the rocket you launched today?’” – Lisa Lewis, gifted intellectual instructor
Methods Among the Madness
Maintaining parent-teacher relationships can be work, but as we’ve seen, the result is worth the effort. And our TAG teachers have a few tips and tricks for keeping the lines of communication open, whether in “normal” teaching times or during a pandemic.
- “Since going remote this last term, I have been directed to make a lot more phone calls. While this was frustrating at first, I now see great value in the ability to directly connect and adapt in ways that are often lost ‘in the text.’ I have been able to make progress with the ability to work with parents by humanizing the conversation and working in positives while still being able to address any immediate issues that may exist.” – Everton Henriques
- “I have always encouraged kids to invite their parents in to share their expertise.” – James Brown
- “I use ClassDojo for my parent communication, and I feel connected to the parents and students as we are all able to share. I don’t use ClassDojo for negative/behavioral issues, although that is one of its uses. I share daily classroom pictures, and the students have a digital work portfolio. I make it a point to post often and allow the parents to comment. It is important to keep parents in the loop, so I post the assignment details, due dates, and ways to help. The app allows for preplanned messages for reminders. Parents often sign and send their permission slips and other information as well as request information from me [through the app].” – Lisa Lewis
- I try to connect with parents in different ways to best meet their needs. Email, social media (Facebook, ClassTag, Twitter), phone, or face-to-face are all options. I also invite families to come to school to see what their children are doing. Our after-school program has an open house family night to allow parents, grandparents, siblings, etc., to come to school to see firsthand what their students have been doing. It helps to open up the doors and make school more inviting and welcoming for families. We want them to know they are always welcome and encouraged to be involved with their child’s school.” – Natalie Vanderbeck
When it comes to educating students and keeping the lines of communications with parents open, we’re all one big team! Let’s keep this dialogue going – share your ideas, questions, and concerns on parent-teacher relationships in the comments below.