How can we establish a good rapport with parents?
Everyone knows that building relationships with parents in a new class can be like ‘trying to walk across a very thin plank over a pool of piranhas’ – but it doesn’t have to be.
Parents are not your enemy, even though it can sometimes feel like they are! The beginning of the year paves the way for new anxieties to creep in, even for the most experienced teachers. But don’t fear!
5 Top Tips for Working With Parents
When you start to prepare for next year, think carefully about how you’ll build relationships with parents. There’s always a way to get them on your wavelength. Here are my top tips for building a strong foundation together.
1. Don’t let them underestimate what you can do
You’re clearly capable, you wouldn’t be reading this right now if you weren’t. Most parents just want the best for their children and by putting them into your care for the year, they may feel as though they are putting their most prized treasure in the hands of someone that they do not know.
So, make it very clear from the outset that you are fully committed to helping their child succeed to the best of their ability. Do background research on the child and let their parents know what your expectations are for them.
2. Keep them in the loop
As I said, parents are all about their child’s future so don’t let them wait until parent’s evenings to let them know how their child is doing. If you see something creeping up – good or bad – get them involved from the outset. Tools such as Seesaw can really help with this, with very little extra work.
3. Deal with any issues fairly
Tempers can flair if a parent believes that their child has been unfairly treated. Often, this will calm down after an accurate assessment of the situation. But what if the parent will not let it rest? This is a rare but stressful scenario wherein it feels as though the teacher can do nothing right!
The important thing to remember is that you still have a professional duty to do right by the child, so deal with any situation using that judgement despite what the parent may have to say in return.
4. Put yourself in their shoes
Rather than nagging at a child or speaking about parents in the staffroom, maybe walk a mile as them. Maybe mum is working three jobs, maybe dad has been made redundant. Maybe getting homework in on time isn’t the most important thing going on in their family life.
We can be overly critical as teachers, often not thinking about the bigger picture that may be filled with shadows edging in from the corners of the canvas, instead focussing on the out-of-place blade of grass on the landscape.
Make sure you know what’s going on at home. Talk to the child, there might be something you could do to help.
5. Always be honest
Honesty is the best policy – this is true. However, it’s quite often not the easiest. If you make choices in your class, then be prepared to deal with the consequences. You will be asked difficult questions over the year and the best thing you can do is be honest about it. If you mess up, explain why. If you exceed expectations for parents, explain why.
Of course, this is all directed at parents who are fully invested in their child’s future. What about parents who aren’t? My best advice for these types of parents is this: don’t give up.
You push and push as if you were the parent that they need. Make sure that you are giving that child every opportunity that they deserve. Be the hero.
Parental engagement is key to making it work with a new class.
Don’t shy away from them thinking that they are an impenetrable wall. In actual fact, they are the ladder up against the wall which you are carrying their child up.
Work together, make a solid foundation, build futures for your children.