Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Building Successful Partnerships With Parents

Parents can be a source of support for teachers, or they can create obstacles to success.  To develop positive relationships with your students’ parents and encourage their cooperation, try the following three-pronged approach:

1.) Open the Lines of Communication

* Send home a detailed welcome letter the first day of school, or mail it before school starts.  The letter should contain information about yourself, your policies and the curriculum.  Most importantly, include your contact information and encourage parents to get in touch with you if they have any questions or concerns throughout the year.

* Deliver a thorough presentation at parent orientation.  In addition to discussing your curriculum, tell parents about yourself, including your background, your teaching style, and your philosophy on homework and tests.  Be receptive to questions and come across as approachable.

* Gather valuable information through written surveys. Ask parents about their child’s strengths and weaknesses, their interests outside of school, their attitude toward school, and their study habits. Parents will appreciate the opportunity to share information about their children that will help you get to know them.

* Contact parents to report positive news.  If you’re an elementary school teacher, call each of the parents in your class to give some positive feedback. For example, tell them their child scored 100% on a spelling test or their child is making friends.  If you’re a middle school or high school teacher, you can send a mass e-mail or a note home to let parents know the year is off to a good start.

2.) Maintain the Home-School Connection

* Keep parents informed.  Send home a letter, newsletter or notice regularly about classroom activities to keep parents in the loop. Parents also appreciate advance notice of upcoming assignments.

* Invite parental involvement in the classroom. Elementary school teachers can invite parents in to read books to the class, share information about their cultures, or demonstrate a hobby.  Middle school and high school teachers can invite parents in as guest speakers if they have a career that’s relevant to a particular unit of study.

3.) Tackle Problems Constructively

* Contact the parent as soon as you detect a problem. Your role isn’t to inform the parent that their child is struggling with a problem—whether it’s academic, behavioral or social. You want to enlist their help in resolving it. 

* Take a positive approach.  Acknowledge the child’s positive attributes.  For example, you can say, “Your child has these good qualities, but I’m concerned about this one area.”  Also reassure parents that their child can succeed if you work together.

* Listen to the parent’s input.  Parents have information about their child’s past behavior or academic issues that can shed light on the situation you’re facing.

* Recommend a solution that involves the parents. Tell parents what they can do at home to reinforce what you’re doing in the classroom to help their child overcome the problem. 

* Remember, the parent is your partner.  Parents bear part of the responsibility for their child’s education.

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at  Please read last week’s article on effective strategies parents can implement to build successful partnerships with teachers. 

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