Navigating Parent-Teacher Collaboration Can Be Rewarding!
As educators, we know how much support we require from our parents. There’s a symbiotic relationship that needs to be present for the benefit of the students. This is often handled through thorough communication, conferences, and working with one another towards the same goal: educating the leaders of the future.
Over the past year, these relationships have likely gotten more complex – parents have been an even more integral part of their children’s school day, many even sitting side by side facilitating interventions and learning support. It’s almost the end of the year and we are starting to get that spring push to round out the year; however, it’s important to stay the course and use this time to remain steadfast in our work with families. In an effort to head into the summer months continuing to support our community, in this edition of our blog, we offer some creative and innovative ways to refresh your connections with families.
Build the Human Connection.
“Walk a mile in their shoes.” It’s hard to understand where someone is mentally, emotionally, and spiritually if you don’t know anything about them. Draft an “interview worksheet” with fun or meaningful questions or use the one we’ve created below! Starting with something as simple as “What’s your favorite color?” and allows the parent to know you are interested in getting to know them. Especially during the end of the school year, letting it get a little lighter brings more fun into the relationship after what’s been a serious and challenging year for most.
Check out this helpful pdf to get you started…
This has been an extremely challenging time, and for some more than others. Treat families with the same compassion you’d want. A little kindness goes a long way!
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t have all the answers. That’s ok. Our families understand that. In the same way, they recognize there are so many new issues facing schools and educators, they are also experiencing the unknown and have been for some time. Listen actively to what they have to tell you about their children. Use prompts such as “Tell me more” to allow them to go deeper if that’s what they want.
“Listen” beyond what someone’s words are saying. Sometimes the most helpful messages are communicated through eye contact (or lack thereof), body language, or other non-verbal cues. This may be challenging via video conference (and impossible over the phone), but to the extent, you can understand what is motivating a family, it will help you build trust and respect.
Be a resource.
Education and the way subjects are being taught have changed a lot since most parents have been in school! Having a child with a disability is also sometimes a new experience – and potentially, if the family comes from a different cultural background, disability may not be well-understood.
It helps to find out where families have gaps in knowledge and work to build knowledge in those areas so everyone is on the same page. That may mean connecting a parent to wrap-around supports or even just avoiding jargon and explaining education terms. It may also mean spending some time with families explaining how the material is being relayed to their child so they can help with homework. Imagine how frustrating it is to sincerely want to assist your children and not know-how. Even though it is late in the year, you might try offering a video/virtual walkthrough of the remaining coursework and then making yourself available for questions.
Let’s make sure to recognize everyone’s wins this year – from students to their families! Turn a zoom call into congratulations to parents for a job well done. Call parents when their children have gains and be specific in your feedback. Not only will it help build the relationship with families, but it also goes a long way toward building trust with your students as well.
We know we’re in the home stretch — or at least we hope we are moving toward summer and a school year that somehow looks closer to normal. But let’s not lose that momentum we have with parents and continue investing in our school community. Try some of our ideas, share them with peers, and if all else fails, check out our Pinterest Board for even more inspiration.
Many of the ideas in this piece are explored more deeply in our online courses, especially Module 5: Building Family Partnerships. If you’d like to learn more, check them out!