Section 3: Communication is Key!
Having set up a good relationship with parents, it will be easier to deal with a negative incident. Also, choose your battles carefully. Some of your best battles are the ones you avoid. — Judy Larson
Communicating with parents is one of the most effective things we teachers do. Parents care deeply about their children and how they’re doing in school, and most parents are reasonable, respectful, and cooperative when dealing with teachers. Educators know what an important difference parents’ involvement can make in a student’s education. Here are some basic guidelines to follow:
- Build effective communication by contacting parents early in the year. Outline your curriculum, expectations, and your criteria for grades and let parents know how they can reach you.
- Try not to be defensive. Remember that you share a common goal with parents: to help their children succeed in school. Try to approach every conversation with that in mind. Be a good listener and listen without interruption.
- Maintain confidentiality by not talking about other students to any parent, and discourage parents from doing so as well. Never mention other students’ names, or even their child’s social group. Talk about their child and their child’s behavior only.
- Unreasonable requests. If a parent makes an unreasonable request, respond in a friendly, firm manner and try to work it out. For example, a parent wanting you to call every night to report on a child’s performance can be told: “I’m sure you understand I have 90 students, and am not able to call you every night. However, I have a suggestion…” Or, if a parent shows up at the door of your classroom, politely explain that you can’t talk right now, and suggest he/she call back after classes and make an appointment.
- Protect yourself by keeping a log of all parent contacts (phone calls, visits, letters, etc.), noting date, time, place, and what was discussed. Keep copies of all documents. If a parent complains to you, talk with your mentor or go to a colleague, your association representative, or your principal, and tell them about the complaint.