posted February 15th, 2017 by Brian Neese
Establishing strong working relationships between teachers and parents requires six major types of parental involvement, according to the magazine Phi Delta Kappan. One of these is communication, which is critical for establishing these valuable partnerships and helping students succeed. I
However, schools and parents are facing increased expectations, economic pressures and time constraints. Unless schools, teachers and parents work to develop and implement appropriate partnership practices at each grade level, these partnerships tend to decline.
“Just about all teachers and administrators would like to involve families, but many do not know how to go about building positive and productive programs,” according to Phi Delta Kappan. Teachers certainly want to make improvements, but they may not always have the resources to help them do so. The School Community Journal explains that many teachers are not specifically trained with the skills they need to communicate effectively with parents.
The journal identifies three avenues of effective parent teacher communication.
One-way or written communication can be efficient and effective. “Written communication is a permanent product that requires careful consideration regarding format and content,” according to the School Community Journal. “The goal is to organize concise, accurate information so that parents will read and understand it.”
• Newsletters share written information with parents, using everyday language to aid in readability. All newsletters should follow a standard format with the same color, quality and paper size. Schools can consider variations, such as a descriptive brochure that includes information for new families moving into the school community.
• School-to-home notebooks can also share information with parents, particularly for students with special learning needs. Teachers should include a balance of good and bad news, avoid educational jargon and establish adequate consistency for this type of communication (e.g. every other day or twice weekly).
• Report cards are a traditional form of one-way communication. They should be easy to understand and offer an opportunity for parents to respond. When concerns exist about a student, the parent should not hear about them for the first time on a report card.
Two-way communication occurs when teachers and parents dialogue together. Parent-teacher conferences and phone calls are two of the most common forms.
Two-way communication utilizes teachers’ interpersonal skills, which can help build positive relationships with parents. Elena Aguilar, teacher and educational coach, offers tips at Edutopia for teachers to develop connections with parents.
• Smile when seeing parents. Ensure your encounters with parents are positive, warm and friendly to make a strong impression.
• Declare your intentions for the discussion and tell them that you appreciate their support.
• Find a translator if you can’t speak a parent’s language.
• Ask open-ended questions about the child. This helps demonstrate your interest in getting to know your student.
• Listen to parents.
• Let parents know how they can help, and make sure you’re specific.
• Share successes. Let parents know when their child is doing well, including what academic or social skills the student has mastered.
The ubiquity of technology in people’s daily lives has impacted education. The journal Communication Education found an increase in parents’ preference for frequent email communication, as well as emerging modes of parent teacher communication such as text messaging and social media.
In the article “9 Techniques for Building Solid Parent-Teacher Relationships” by teacher Kechia Williams (scholastic.com), Williams recommends that teachers use technology whenever possible. Williams described several ways she uses technology for her sixth-grade class.
Not all parents have access to technology, so providing the same information in other written formats is important.
Teachers can develop leadership skills and make a greater impact in students’ lives with one of the online Master of Education degree from Southeastern University. These programs help educators support and advocate for students in and outside of the classroom. They take place in a flexible and convenient online learning environment.