How do you build a positive partnership with your parents?
You know it’s vital. It’s arguably one of the most important factors that has an impact on the learning and welfare of your pupils – but how do you do it?
It’s all about trust – especially in Early Years or with parents new to your school. Parents don’t know teachers. Neither do they know that sometimes teachers lie awake at night worrying about how to help their child. They don’t know that teachers care almost as much as they do about their child’s wellbeing and happiness.
So, what can you do about it?
- Be organised. Send a letter explaining your class routine (When is PE? How often will you change their books? Is there homework?) and stick to it! If you say you’ll quiz them every Friday on their times-tables, then do it! Share expectations.
- Reassure them that their child is safe with you – the best way of doing this is by listening to them and taking their concerns seriously, no matter how small they seem. If they tell you in a morning that their little one wasn’t feeling 100%, then a quick nod at home time to let them know you have kept an extra eye on them and made sure they drank more water goes a long way. If they ask you to look into a play time incident, follow it up and report back to the parent before they come back to you. I have a whiteboard stuck to my door so I can make little notes for myself – it’s easy to forget who you need to talk to.
- Don’t brush things under the carpet and put awkward conversations off – but equally don’t air dirty washing in public. If you need to speak to a child’s parents, consider keeping the child to the end of the home-time line – that way asking the parent to step inside for a moment won’t be such a public affair.
Finding the balance of being available to meet and talk without being bombarded by pushy parents who may make you late for class. It can be tricky (especially for NQTs) – but being approachable is crucial, not that you should be a push over!
- Don’t be afraid to say, “I want to give this my full attention – can you come back at the end of the day and we’ll sit together and talk about it?”
- Have a board outside your door that you regularly update with notices or answers to F.A.Qs and reminders for your parents. It’s worth it! It will save you from answering the same question over and over and it will assist the parents to not miss things – we are all multi-tasking and things get forgotten, not usually on purpose!
- Consider asking a TA to ‘man’ the door and hand children out occasionally whilst you step outside to speak to parents informally. This can be especially helpful at the beginning of the year when many may have incidental questions.
Parents are busy people. For many, trying to get out of the house in a morning and having children ready for school is not an easy feat!
- Do a ‘name in jumper’ check a few times near the beginning of the year, with pens available to write names in where they’ve not yet been done. Yes, it does take time and no, perhaps that shouldn’t be your role, but it will however, save hours of jumper hunting for someone later in the year.
- Help the children to get into a good routine, collecting all of their belongings to get out of the door at the end of the day ON TIME. Some children may even need a little laminated list to go through and tick off. There is always one child that regularly leaves their lunch box!
- Have a few spares. Spare water bottles are essential!
- Give notice for special events. Not every household can whip up a book character costume at a moment’s notice and for some, getting an hour off work to attend an assembly is difficult – doable if they have notice!
- Think about your expectations for homework and its impact on family life, especially for those children of working parents that spend a lot of time in before and after school clubs. How much is too much? Could snuggling up together with a good book be a more valuable use of their time?
“So, what did you do today?” is all too often answered with “I can’t remember!”, or “Nothing!”
How can we combat this? Parents are often desperate for a sneak peek into their child’s world at school and we put our heart and soul into planning for learning.
- Spend the last two minutes of each day recapping what you have done. “What did students learn in maths this morning? What was that new word that we loved? Do you remember when you helped someone at lunch time? What brilliant thing did you manage this afternoon?”
- Take time to share little achievements and moments with the parents. A passing comment about how their child’s confidence is developing goes a long way, as does a little postcard home. A photograph stuck in the window or on your school’s Twitter account of your class beavering away also gives the right impression.
- Consider how to share learning and involve your parents more. Ask if they feel they would like more information about a particular curriculum area. Workshops (e.g. for phonics or problem solving) are often well received. If you’ve been working on reciting a poem, open your door ten minutes early and invite them in. If you are feeling brave, an open morning, perhaps to coincide with a topic launch can be very productive and extremely valuable. A few easy put-together activities with instructions to follow (e.g. creating models, a mini science experiment or a quiz) can create a buzz in your classroom, and moreover, allow the parents to see you where you are most comfortable and confident – in your classroom… and then they can see just why their children are flourishing with you!
These 4 tips are vital for building routines and positive relationships. What do you need to start doing today?
You can follow her on Twitter at @JenWillis1 .