Teaching is the most rewarding career (together with life coaching and writing). I think it is rewarding because every day, teachers feel they are making a difference. Making a difference is a high need that most people have and we all, in small ways or big ways, make a difference in other people’s lives.
Important note: If you are not a teacher, but you are a parent, this post is as much for you as it is for teachers, because parents can work on their side of the relationship for the benefit of their kids and guide the teachers with today’s insights. In fact, why not email the post to them or print them a copy?
A parent-teacher love affair
A long time ago, when I wrote the “Garden of Eden” program for promoting “giftedness” in every child, I discovered that a big part of my success with the kids depended on the relationship I had with their parents.
This is the formula:
The better your relationship with a child’s parents, the more successful the child will be and the more successful you will be
It took me a while to understand that, if parents did not feel comfortable with me, their kids would project this feeling in class (from as early as 2 years of age). When parents were supportive and felt I was working towards the same goal, namely the benefit of their child, my job as a teacher was ten times easier.
I have worked with many kids around the world and kept the rules of the parent-teacher love affair and I believe this was one of the main reasons for my success with these kids.
How to strengthen your parent-teacher relationships?
- You are making a difference. What you are doing is a mission, not a job. When you believe this, parents will believe in you.
- Remember the parents are your real clients.
- Remember the client is always right.
- Establish communication channels with “your” parents – communication book, email, phone, meetings, class performances and displays, etc.
- Give parents your home phone number for emergency and be clear about the definition of “emergency”. Most parents will not take advantage of your generosity and if they do, they are the one who would get your phone number some other way. Just say, “I’m happy this is not an emergency. Why don’t you come and talk to me about it tomorrow morning?” All other parents will have a feeling that you are there for them when they need you.
- Make sure parents know what your expectations are (it is unfair to expect parents or kids to guess them).
- Have a parent-teacher conference with all your parents at the beginning of the year to set the rules and allow them to get to know you. Schedule enough time for the meeting to allow the parents to ask all their questions.
- Have parent-teacher conferences once a term to discuss topics concerning everyone.
- Ask the parents to tell you what they think you should know about their kids that will make you teach them better. You do not need to study the kids the hard way. Parents are honest and they will tell you some things that took them years to learn about their kids, so take this into consideration.
- Celebrate kids’ birthdays in class and invite their parents to participate or at least give every child a nice card and mention their birthday in class.
- Learn parents’ names and professions.
- Tell parents about yourself.
- Ask for parents’ cooperation with class activities and projects.
- Offer to help parents deal with kids at home (advice only).
- When in conflict with parents, do not compete for the kids’ love and attention. You will always end up on the losing side. Find a way to work together with the parents instead.
- Do not send the kids messages that are in conflict with the messages they get at home. This will only get you in trouble and confuse the kids.
- Do not ever say, “I have 30 kids in the class” to justify lack of attention. Talk to parents about how special their kids are instead.
- Give the kids homework to take home for parents to be involved and notice progress (or problems).
- Give the kids some assignments that require parental guidance or help, like family research.
- Send test papers home with the kids to allow parents and kids to monitor themselves.
- When something notable happens to kids in class, write their parents about it instead of expecting the kids to give their interpretation to the parents at home.
- When kids are sick for more than a day, call their home and make arrangements for them to catch up.
- Allow parents to come and watch their kids in class any time they like.
- Use the “sandwich” technique when something requires improvement and you want the parents to cooperate – say something positive first, then the things that need attention and end with more positives.
- Encourage parents to share their knowledge, experience and culture with the class.
- Compliment parents on their contribution, their ideas, their comments and anything else you can think of.
- Encourage communication among parents.
- Contact parents when good things happen, not only when there are problems.
- Ask parents for ideas.
- Make sure parents know the level expected of their kids.
- Always give a sample test to allow parents to help kids learn.
- Have a reward system parents can see (a graph in the class is not good enough). Many parents treat your stickers as a reward for them…
- Send parents monthly newsletters with your plan for the next month.
- Include parents as much as possible.
- Send thank you notes to parents.
- Do not judge kids by their parents’ behavior. The parents will find out.
- Offer to give kids more homework when needed. It is more work at first, but this way, the parents extend their kids’ learning hours and your job will be easier in the long run.
- Organize a buddy system to help kids who are sick or need help.
- When kids underperform, let their parents know.
- When there is a noticeable change in kids’ performance or behavior, call home and talk to the parents. If there is a chance it will get worse, it will!
- Give kids small gifts and rewards they can show their parents at home – new baby, birthday or special achievement.
- Send home as many certificates as you can.
- Make every kid king for a week and allow his or her family to take part in the activity.
- Do not talk to parents about other kids’ achievements. This is very important to win parents’ confidence regarding their own child.
- Invite parents to come and watch their kids winning/performing or getting an award in class or at school assembly.
- Send parents photos of their kids.
- Do not complain in parents’ presence about kids, other teachers, the principal, your school or the system. Parents need to feel their kids are in safe, competent hands.
- Be open and honest about your family and your kids, but be careful not to overdo it, as this could be perceived as bragging.
- When kids struggle, talk to parents about the importance of having fun and enjoying the learning and change the focus from performance to process.
- Take care of yourself as a teacher. The teaching profession involves a lot of giving and it is hard to maintain optimism and motivation if you do not get anything in return. Take care of yourself and remember that if you are happy, kids are happy, parents are happy and you are happy… It is a wonderful cycle.
Teaching is an awesome profession. People will not remember who won prizes, who the richest person in the world was, who invented their favorite gadget, but they will remember the teachers who have made a difference in their life.
Enjoy every minute of it!