When I first started teaching, making connections with parents wasn't something I ever thought I'd have to work at. I naively assumed, I'd know all the parents, we work well together all year long, and everything would be pretty effortless.
I QUICKLY learned that was not the case. There were some parents that I never saw or heard from, and some parents that I could not seem to get to like me. Needless to say, this made my first year of teaching a little stressful (on top of everything else).
Coming up with ways to connect with parents over the years has been a mission of mine. It definitely takes a lot of work to cultivate strong relationships with my students' parents, but it is SO worth it.
I used to assume that parents that were not involved in their student's academic careers simply didn't care. I know now that language, culture, work schedules, and insecurities can play a huge part in that. I know now that it is MY job to reach out and continue to reach out and connect throughout the year.
One of the easiest things I do to start a relationship is to ask them about their child. I make sure to send home information sheets asking questions about the type of learner their child is, what motivates them, and what their goals for their child are. I want to establish that I value their opinion and care about their child.
I also gain my parents' trust by allowing them to get to know me and keeping a line of communication open. I send home Connection Cases that I make. They are just pencil cases that are full of notes for parents to send to me to address any questions, comments, or concerns they have. They feel comfortable communicating with me because I encourage them to.
Gaining a parents' trust and having a positive relationship makes conversations about struggles, behavior, or classroom issues much more successful. I like to make my parents feel like we are a part of a team and they really respond to that.
At the end of the day, we ARE a team. We both want what's best for the student, so working together only makes sense.
I keep in touch about EVERYTHING. Even if they don't always respond, it lets them know what I'm up to and how much I care. In my experience, when parents don't feel connected to teachers, they make assumptions about us! They assume we don't care about their child, or that we don't like their child (or them). This can make phone calls home and conferences very difficult.
Reaching out only during the beginning of the year isn't enough! I use a connection log to track how often I interact with parents. Whether it's a note, an e-mail, a phone call, or a meeting, I try to connect with a few parents each week. I do a few at a time so I don't overwhelm myself. Notes are the easiest for me. I make positive phone calls home the first month of school, and then mostly stick to notes and e-mail for the rest of year, unless a phone call is necessary.
I intentionally reach out to report WAY more positive news than negative. When I actually have to call or talk about something negative, they know I have their child's best interest at heart because of the RELATIONSHIP we've built. It makes the conversation so easy to have. If I only call to complain about their child's behavior, eventually they are going to stop answering the phone.
I send home notes ALL THE TIME! I thank parents for little things and big things. Anything to make them feel connected and included. Even if it's a parent I never hear back from, I still reach out and check in with them. At the very least, the student sees my effort and knows that I care about them and their parent.
I hope you enjoyed these ideas! I finally compiled all of my notes, forms, and connection cases into a printable resource. It's available now on TpT!