Some days are easier than others, and some conversations with parents go easier than others for sure.
Did I just say that? Yep, I did and I get it.
But we still need to work with our parents and not against them.
So how do I deal with keeping my parents “in the know”?
This one seems like a no brainer, I know, but it begins at the complete beginning of the school year.
Let your families get to know you a little bit and genuinely get to know them in return. This will make the school year go so much smoother and sets you up for open communication later in the year.
You can do this by sending postcards to each of your students before the school year starts, sending a “Welcome” letter home during the first week of school, or just having genuine conversations with parents during Open House night. Don’t forget to let them know that you are on their team, too!
Let them know you have the same end goal: educating and helping their child.
A great resource to help your student’s parents is an IEP Binder for the parent. The complete IEP Binder for parents is a simple, effective organizational tool to keep all of their child’s important IEP information in one, organized place.
You can print it for the parent and let them fill in the rest. It’s a great resource to help them keep track of goals/objectives, important dates, and all of the outside services their child may receive.
Send home a parent involvement calendar.
You can do this weekly, monthly, quarterly, 3-4x a year… it’s all up to you. Make sure you put important dates and reminders on the calendar.
Print it on colorful paper so it is less likely to be lost in transit from school to home.
Call the parents! And call them for good things more often than calling them about inappropriate behaviors. (One of my tips for handling aggressive parents in this blog post).
Most of the time, parents are scared to get a call from you because it usually means their child is in trouble. Anxiety spikes and walls go up, it’s just not a good thing UNLESS you call home for good things more often than the “bad”.
Your parents will be more likely to get onboard your teaching ship if you aren’t always the bearer of bad news. No one really likes bad news anyway.
Keep track of your parent phone calls and emails with this free Parent Communication Binder.
Think about sending home daily or weekly or bi-weekly student data cards.
These keep the parents informed on how their student is or is not performing in your classroom. Keep a copy for yourself, too. Documentation!
I create quarterly communication notebooks for each of my students, so it’s only something I need to do 4x a school year.
Each day, as the day progresses I will fill out a section of the communication notebook. If a child needs another set of clothes at school, had a meltdown, performed really well on a specific lesson, or any other important information needs shared… I put in in the notes section at the bottom.
The communication notebook is also a great place to send home notes about upcoming events to parents, and printing these reminders on sticky notes helps it stand out more.
Communication stickers are another great way of communication daily with parents.
Picture this scenario… you send student work home that a child completed with no notes. Parent thinks the child did the work independently, and now (at the IEP meeting) the parent is questioning why you, the teacher, are saying the child is not able to perform the skill. You’re 5 miles apart. And the trust is gone.
NOW IMAGINE THIS SCENARIO: Same child. Same work. Except this time, you used a communication sticker to let the parent know the child completed the work hand over hand with someone. Instant communication between all parties and the trust is there.
The video above is a full explanation of what the communication stickers are, how I use them, why I created them (hint… it was out of a serious need in my own self-contained classroom) and how they are helping keep parents in the know.
Create a classroom newsletter.
Now before you give up before you start, let me tell you how easy it is and why it is so important! First, your newsletter doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. You can use a word document and copy in a calendar. Highlight key dates so parents know what is going on in your classroom.
Parents love to know what their kid is learning each subject and it gives the parents something to ask their child about. Why is it important? Well your parents are more likely to be supportive at home (like helping with homework or volunteering in the classroom) if they know what is going on.
Get your students involved in keeping communication open and successful with parents.
I’m going to take a guess that you’re probably thinking about that game you can play at bus duty to keep the kids occupied. You know the one where the teacher whispers something into one child’s ear, they whisper to each other down the line and if the sentence doesn’t change they win a prize or something? You mean, you’ve never played that game… on a Friday afternoon… right before winter break?!
You’re right though, if you tell a child something, the message might get misconstrued, or even forgotten, on the trek home.
Here’s an idea to combat that: a weekly or bi-weekly exit pass! This can be as simple as a half sheet of paper the students fill out before going home. Have them share something they are excited about, something they learned today, or even something they are proud of. This gets conversations moving at home and your parents stay informed.
(a 7th tip just because!) If you are the opposite of me (in the realm of being tech savy when it comes to creating a classroom website), then you should definitely create a classroom website, or blog.
I don’t mean your teacher blog, I mean a website or blog where you parents can log in and check on daily/weekly assignments, see any projects coming up, leave questions and comments for you (the teacher), and maybe even find some links to educational websites.
You want it to be easy to navigate so parents can find what they are looking for easily. Your website does not have to be cutesy or match the theme of your classroom, but it does need to be relevant and kept up-to-date!
How do you keep communication open with your student’s parents?