Educators know very well the importance of having strong partnerships with parents, yet building these can be one of the most challenging aspects of the job. Scholastic Instructor magazine has some advice for how teachers can avoid the pitfalls and strengthen relationships with parents. Here are a few:
1) No one reads your newsletters.
Problem:You spend hours compiling class information, and yet parents still have no idea that today is the class field trip!
Solution: Diversify and simplify. Pernille Ripp, a middle school teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, gives parents the option of receiving paper or e-mail newsletters. Also, she includes only the most important information in those weekly updates. “I try to be very picky with what I send so that people know if I’m sending something, it’s something they’ll need,” she says.
2) A parent thinks you’re singling out her child.
Problem: You make a phone call home about a problem at school, and the response is, “Why are you always picking on my kid?”
Solution: Send out general reminders to everyone. When Ripp noticed dress-code violations starting to pop up in her classroom, she didn’t call individual kids’ parents. Instead, she sent out a note reminding all families about the rules. The move saved her time, and ensured that kids didn’t feel they were being individually targeted. “It usually solves 95 percent of the problem,” Ripp says.
3) Language and cultural barriers.
Problem: You wish you could talk to all of your students’ parents in their native tongue, but you’re limited to English.
Solution: Embrace diversity. Even if you can’t become fluent in a half-dozen languages in time for parent–teacher conferences, you can still create a welcoming multicultural environment. Thomas Hoerr, aneducation author and administrator at a private school in St. Louis, recommends printing greetings in multiple languages, holding some school meetings in community spaces, and serving different ethnic foods at school functions. You’ll also want a translator on hand for important meetings.
Illustration: Victoria Roberts