Now that the school year has started, you’ve probably checked off some major things on your teacher list—right? Created the most inviting classroom? Check. Prepared the most engaging lessons? Check. Gathered all your read-alouds for the beginning of the year? Check.
You have focused on your students. You’ve memorized their names and are getting to know their personalities. But what about their parents? Your students’ parents play a huge role in their education and can greatly impact your school year. So, start the year off right with the parents and make a good first impression.
I’m not talking about wearing a nice outfit on the first day or sending home notes in a fancy font, and I’m not referring to Meet the Teacher or Curriculum Night (although these are important). I’m talking about how you can convey to parents that you care about their child and have his or her best interest at heart. That you see the good in the child and will care for her while she’s at school. That you will teach her more than the curriculum and model for her a love of learning. You can do this with a few easy but meaningful steps.
1. Let families know you care.
First, start the school year out on a positive note. As teachers, we encourage students countless times throughout the school day, but they rarely go home and tell mom and dad about it. So, call home. Write a note. Send an email. Let family members know how awesome you think their child is. Do this early in the school year.
Include a story about their child. If, for instance, you share that their child is kind, tell them about how he helped another student tie her shoes or took turns nicely. If their child is eager to learn, tell them how excited she was to hear that she’ll be learning about insects this year. The little details make a difference, and they let parents know how much you really care.
2. Make it personal.
Don’t talk to parents like you would your college professor, as if you’re on official teacher business. Talk to them as another parent, another adult, another person at your dinner table. I’ve seen too many teachers communicate in a professional manner that can come off as cold or even condescending. Yikes! You want to be professional but relatable.
3. Remember: Parents are people, too!
When communicating with parents, you also want to limit teacher lingo and acronyms. If you do use teacher talk, explain it. “Stephen is a wonderful reader. I love to listen to him read his guided reading books. These are books we read together in small groups. He does a great job changing his voice to match the punctuation…” If I were Stephen’s mom and received that note, I would be so happy and would feel like his teacher really cared about my son and his reading.
4. Keep it up!
Finally, continue sending positive comments home throughout the year. Parents love to see all the sincere compliments you give their child and how you encourage them. Some days it can be a quick note: “Neat handwriting today, Sarah.” “Thank you, Ana, for helping a friend at lunch today.” “Matthew was so fun to teach today. I’m proud of his learning.” All of these comments just take a minute to write and will be meaningful to the student and parents.
Sending positive comments home early on and throughout the school year will help later on when you have to correct behavior or talk with parents about a concern. So, this year, take a few minutes each week and send some genuine and thoughtful notes home to cultivate a positive relationship with your students and their parents.
Be kind, be encouraging, be you!
Find more HMH tools and resources to help you plan for back-to-school season.