It should be a goal of every teacher to create an environment that is conducive to the success of his or her students. One of the most important components of a successful classroom is positive communication and relationships with parents. When parents are involved, students are more successful, and teachers are less stressed and overworked. Avoiding these five common mistakes will help teachers build and maintain a quality rapport with parents.
Making the first parent interaction a negative experience.
The first day of school can be stressful and overwhelming for teachers, especially if they are new to the profession. Trying to keep track of students and parents coming into the classroom is a daunting task, and there is a short window of time to do “meet and greets” with all of the parents before starting the day. Some students may be anxious or scared; others may be excited and bouncing around the classroom, and it is the teacher’s job to acknowledge everyone and maintain a calm and controlled demeanor.
Some parents may feel ignored or rushed, which can lead to negative feelings before they even get to know their child’s teacher. One way to avoid this is to have the “meet and greet” experience prior to the first day of school, when there is more time to visit and answer questions. Another option is for the teacher to mail out a “welcome letter” prior to school starting. This letter will answer the basic questions and introduce the teacher to the parents all at once.
Having a “one size fits all” attitude.
This approach is much like trying to fit 30 little square pegs into 30 little round holes. It doesn’t work. Teachers need to realize that every child learns differently, and it doesn’t make any one student less intelligent or able to learn than another student. If a child isn’t successful, a parent is going to want to know why. Hearing from a teacher that their child just “doesn’t get it” or “isn’t trying” can really cause the relationship to go downhill.
Before speaking to parents about a child’s academic progress, teachers should try different approaches to the lessons in order to ensure that the student has had ample opportunity to grasp the concepts being taught. It’s a delicate subject with parents, so putting all the blame on the child could cause animosity between teacher and parent.
Minimizing communication with parents throughout the year.
One thing that teachers should always keep in the forefront of their minds is that each of these students is somebody’s baby. It can be a stressful time for parents when a child goes off to school, so keeping them abreast on issues, accomplishments, activities, etc. will help ease that stress and make them feel more comfortable and relaxed. It can be awkward when a teacher has to approach a parent about a behavior problem in the classroom, but an open line of communication is the best way to eliminate similar issues in the future.
Parents and teachers need to work together to identify problems and come up with solutions. Working as a team will show students that they are being held accountable for their actions at school and at home, and they will be less likely to test boundaries at school. Also, parents can be a valuable resource to a busy teacher. Reaching out for classroom volunteers or inviting parents to come for parties and fieldtrips is definitely a benefit that should be taken advantage of when available.
Failing to set clear expectations.
It is extremely important for teachers to lay out their policies and procedures, along with consequences for not following those procedures, to both students and parents. In order for children to be successful, they must be clear about what acceptable behavior is and is not. This doesn’t just mean in the classroom, but also on the playground, in the library, in the cafeteria, on field trips, at assemblies and any other possible scenario that might arise. This way, when discipline is put into place, remind the child that he/she was informed of the consequences prior to the behavior taking place. The same goes for parents; they should be made aware of the classroom policies, procedures and expectations, along with the consequences for misbehavior. One possible method of doing this is to send out a letter explaining the expectations, and to give the parent the opportunity to reply back or ask questions.
It’s helpful to encourage the parents to open up a line of communication with their child about the letter, and to let the child explain what he/she has already heard from the teacher at school. This discussion will let both parent and child know that the other is aware of expectations and consequences.
Lashing out or placing blame on parents.
Dealing with behaviorally challenged students can be extremely difficult, especially when trying to maintain control and ensure that the other students are able to learn and focus. At times, it can seem like a student is “out to get” the teacher, but a student’s behavior should never be taken personally. There are many factors that play into a child acting out, and it is almost never because they don’t like their teacher.
However, day in and day out of dealing with the same disruptive behaviors can be stressful and overwhelming, and it’s even more frustrating when a parent doesn’t seem to be interested in helping fix the problem. Teachers must remember that some parents do become defensive when faced with the idea that their child might be doing something wrong. A teacher should never make a phone call home immediately following an incident of bad behavior. It’s best to wait and make that phone call when emotions have lessened and the teacher has a calm and rational demeanor. Otherwise, it can turn into a “placing blame” conversation, which is in no way beneficial to the student.
The most successful learning environment for both students and teachers is one where parents are involved and supportive. Students with supportive parents come to school more often, do better academically and stay in school longer. Teachers who have supportive parents in their classrooms are less stressed, have more time and develop better rapport with the parents, as well as their students. All of these factors create an environment more conducive to learning, which will develop more successful students.