Managing teacher–parent relationships

Researchers have found that positive connections between parents and teachers have been shown to improve children’s academic achievement, social competencies and emotional well-being. When parents and teachers work as partners, children do better in school and at home.

–Madhavi Goswami

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Together we may give our children the roots to grow and the wings to fly.

Teachers and parents provide a vital support system to help students flourish. Both groups are important. First, when it comes to expectations, both parents and teachers have them for each other. They expect certain things to happen. Parents expect teachers to instruct their students and to guide their learning so they can have success. While, teachers expect parents to support the instruction and learning that happens in school, at home. They have expectations for their student’s academic performance, attendance, and behaviour both in school and out of school. If these expectations are the same and they are

Madhavi Goswami is Senior Academic Coordinator at Seth Anandram Jaipuria School, Ghaziabad. She is an experienced and prolific professional with more than 15 years of variegated ensemble of experience in the field of education. She has worked as a Resource Person/ Subject Expert for NCERT Research and Development department, Member of Project Assessment Committee-PAC member “Vidyarthi Vigyan Manthan (VVM),” India’s Largest Science Talent Search examination, Member – PISA question development committee PISA- OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, as Evaluator in team of expert evaluators in Odyssey of Mind, India. She has also co-authored two books with NCERT on Game Based Teaching etc.
She has received awards like Inspiring Green Educator Award, Best Teacher Award, Innovator award, Global Teacher Award, Teacher of Change Award, RTOC – Regional Teacher of Change and Rockstar Teacher Award.

communicated, a synergy will happen, and their relationship can have a powerful effect on the student’s learning outcomes. The operative word here in all this is COMMUNICATED. When expectations are clearly communicated, both parents and teachers will have a better understanding of their roles in the parent-teacher relationship. They will then know how best to be a supportive part of that responsibility.

Communication is important…

Every school has its unique requirements, student demographics and objectives; there is no one-size-fits-all approach to improving parent-teacher relationships. However, academic leaders should initiate and support efforts for developing positive parent-teacher relationships. Encourage teachers to open the lines of communication. It’s a human tendency that parents often want to know what’s happening in the classroom and how their children are faring. Ensure teachers share information about their classroom activities and projects. They can do this in ways that makes sense for their classroom management style—electronically, in print, or both.

Personal contact, including conferences, telephone calls, and curriculum nights, open houses, coffee mornings seems to be the most effective form of communication and may be among the most familiar. However, the establishment of effective school-home communication has grown more complex as society has changed. The great diversity among families means that it is not possible to rely on a single method of communication that will reach all homes with a given message. It is essential that a variety of strategies, adapted to the needs of particular families and their schedules, be incorporated into an overall plan.

Strategic planning…

Schools have made great strides in increasing the frequency of communication with families, taking advantage of digital tools to give parents more visibility into their child’s day. However, as the challenges listed above indicate, the proliferation of tools has now fragmented communications to the point of leaving parents overwhelmed and unsure what to do with the information they receive. Parents appreciate the school’s effort to communicate, but if they can’t act on the information and the school isn’t sure if it was even received, nobody achieves the desired results.

With this in mind, the next level of strategic planning is required. This includes giving teachers fewer tools to manage, reducing the number of places parents need to look for information, and making information more clearly actionable. By ensuring parents have an easier time receiving communications from the school, it will help school leaders gain buy-in for goals and initiatives, help teachers foster the parent engagement desired in the classroom, and help students get the support they need from their families.

Here are some strategies for leaders to establish and teachers to practice to channelize positive and productive communications right from the start of the school year:

1. Incorporate parent communication into teachers’ growth and evaluation plans. Work together with each faculty member to set parent communication benchmarks that make sense for them in their growth and evaluation plan. This shows continued support for this initiative and helps give teachers a pathway to success when it comes to parent communication

2. Provide professional development opportunities focused on parent communication. Helping teachers understand different styles of working with parents can help them improve their strategies and skills.

3. Pick one tool: School leaders ought to conduct a communications audit to get a handle on how teachers are communicating with parents, and then provide clear direction on which tool to use, as well as some general communication protocols.

4. Consistency and frequency: Parents want frequent, ongoing feedback about how their children are performing with homework. Issue shorter, more frequent communications, don’t kick off the year with one long communication or wait until the end of the term to reach out with an extensive recap. Just as schools have moved to more frequent assessments of students, school communications should also be concise and frequent to keep parents in the loop on an ongoing basis.

5. Personalize: Personalization isn’t just for students. Parents expect it, too, and new technology tools can help parents customize how they’re connected to their children’s schools. This is especially important since not all parents can come into school at designated times. Personalization features include giving parents the option to “subscribe” to the channels featuring updates they wish to receive–personalizing the information, not just the delivery method–which ensures they get the information they feel is relevant without it getting lost amid other information overload.

6. Set the tone: Encourage teachers to initiate and share a bit of information about themselves at the start of the year, perhaps at parent night, to set the tone for an open exchange with students’ parents and caregivers. They should develop and communicate a process for regular, ongoing communication throughout the year so parents know what to expect.

7. Clarity and usefulness of communication: Communicate in a form and language that makes sense to them.
8. Build relationships: Teachers should focus on building relationships with parents to establish trust and foster those relationships throughout the year. Schools should also ensure that parents have opportunities to build rapport with their child’s support network, which can include a whole team of people, including learning specialists.
9. Share accountability: Make it clear that all faculty members are expected to participate in the school’s communication efforts. By providing clear guidance on this expectation, along with the proper tools and protocols to make it actionable, leaders can make it a reality. Administrators should also lead by example, demonstrating that they are equally accountable for executing the plan.

Teachers should invite parents to share information about their child’s strengths and weaknesses, what type of support system they have at home, and whether anything going on in the child’s life may impact classroom behaviour. Information like this can be essential in equipping teachers to meet students’ needs.

10. Invite parents to be partners: If educators don’t already know the school’s parent body, they should be sure to reach out and learn more about them. Teachers should invite parents to share information about their child’s strengths and weaknesses, what type of support system they have at home, and whether anything going on in the child’s life may impact classroom behaviour. Information like this can be essential in equipping teachers to meet students’ needs.

11. Empower parents to opt in: Design opportunities where parents can opt in (or out) of certain information or updates that are relevant, or irrelevant, to their child

12. Communicate with empathy and understanding.

13. Practice positivity and respect.

14. Be a broker of resources: If they share a concern, be prepared to point them to a direction where they can find help

Together we may give our children the roots to grow and the wings to fly.