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Parent-Teacher Interactions

As a teacher, you already recognize the value of parental involvement. However, as a teacher, you can do a lot to facilitate that involvement just by interacting with your students' parents. To do this successfully, you must first let your students' parents know how you would like to interact with them. The following parent-teacher interaction tips will help you do this successfully:

1. Communicate with Parents Proactively

Your students' parents really do want to be involved in their education. Therefore, it is important not to make the assumption that parents don't want to be "bothered" with an issue that concerns you. When something comes up, whether it is a behavioral issue or an academic concern, be proactive about contacting the parent right away. In fact, you can make this even easier by taking the time to gather all of your students' contact information at the very beginning of the school year. In particular, you're going to want to have e-mail addresses for all of your students' parents, so that you can easily and quickly contact them whenever there is a problem.

2. Communicate Positive Information

So often, parents only hear from their child's teacher when there is a problem. You can develop quite a positive reputation as a caring and compassionate professional just by taking the time to contact your students' parents to share positive tidbits about their school performance and adjustment. For example, when a student in your class blows you away with an impressive insight, call home to share the story. It's unbelievable how quickly you can gain parents' trust just by taking the time to share something positive that they might not otherwise have heard.

3. Create a System for Communicating Information

Create communication routines and systems that work for you, to enhance your interactions with parents. For example, develop a regular weekly newsletter that can be sent home via paper or e-mail. When it is regular, and contains valuable information that parents need, you'll find that they are actually willing to open it up and read it! However, be careful to create a system that you can actually maintain. For example, if you're doing a newsletter, keep the format simple, so that sending it out does not become a burden on your busy schedule. When done well, this type of regular communication can actually save you time, because it reduces the amount of phone calls you receive regarding things like field trips, test dates, and other concerns, because you're easily and readily providing that information in the newsletter.

4. Schedule Regular Parent Meetings and Conferences

When you have a parent conference or meeting, make sure that you begin with the positive. No matter what type of information you've invited them to your classroom to discuss, make sure that you convey to the parents that you value their child, in particular, and that you recognize something about them that makes them special. Every parent wants to know that their child's teacher really "sees" them! Then, as you move into discussing the concern that was the reason you initiated the conference in the first place, make sure that you stick to stating facts, not feelings. In addition, have a plan in mind that you can propose to the parents, as a way of working toward a solution for the issue, and invite them to be a part of that solution. Always make sure that you arrange for a time to come back to the issue again, too, to see whether the plan is actually working, or needs to be adjusted. For example, if you are asking the parents to sign their child's assignment pad each evening, double check with them in a week or so to see how it is working for them, and whether they see any improvement.

5. Plan for Parent-Teacher Interactions

Instead of becoming frustrated by the need to return unexpected phone calls during your lunch hour, realize that parents will occasionally need to get in touch with you, and build some time for responding to their inquiries into your work day. This might mean scheduling "office hours" before or after school, and letting parents know that you are available at that time to discuss their concerns, or using e-mail programs, like Outlook or Thunderbird, to create reminders for yourself so that you don't forget to follow up with a parent weekly or respond to an e-mail they sent you with a quick question. When you have systems in place for communicating clearly with parents, those phone calls and e-mails begin to feel much less like an intrusion and more like the valuable contacts that they really are.


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