When teachers and parents work together in a close partnership, students are able to get the support they need at school and at home. Parents can anticipate what topics their students will learn about in the near future, provide accountability for homework assignments, and spend extra time practicing study skills outside of the school day.
Here are some tips for securing a constructive partnership with parents before the school year even begins:
#1: Don’t wait until the first day of school to get in touch with parents.
Before the fall semester begins, reach out to parents by letter, phone, and/or email to introduce yourself. Give parents a chance to ask any questions that have been gnawing away at them, and let them know what they can expect from the first week of school. Use this initial communication to begin establishing a foundation of trust, and to reassure parents that you’re just as committed to their student’s success as they are.
#2: Let parents know what to expect.
Whether you get to know parents before the school year begins through a “Meet the Teacher” event or simply through an email newsletter, it’s important to give parents a road map so they know what to expect over the this school year.
Here is some key information to provide:
- An outline of the curriculum, including key assessment dates and homework assignments.
- Opportunities for parents to support you through the year, such as through volunteer opportunities or by contributing supplies.
- School policies, including your classroom’s discipline plan.
- An explanation of how you will communicate with them through the rest of the school year, including the frequency with which they can expect these communications.
#3: Provide parents with specific strategies to use when supporting their child’s learning.
Keep in mind that parents may have never heard of some of the teaching strategies that come naturally to you. They need your advice on the best ways they can help their child complete homework assignments, practice critical thinking, and strengthen study skills.
Here are three steps to use when suggesting a teaching tool:
- Give a specific suggestion to help develop a particular skill. For example, if you are working with a K-2 classroom to develop critical thinking skills, you may encourage parents to read aloud with their child at home, pausing every so often to ask, “What do you think will happen next?”
- Explain how this teaching strategy works. By asking the child to predict what will happen next, you are encouraging them to reflect on the information they have already gathered through the beginning of the book to make an educated guess about how a situation could logically resolve itself.
- Explain how this strategy can positively impact the child’s academic performance or even their life in general. For example, practicing critical thinking skills with hypothetical situations can prepare your child to logically evaluate real life situations with unknown outcomes. In real life, your child will need to evaluate a classmate’s previous patterns of behavior to predict whether that classmate would be a trustworthy friend.
#4: Let parents know why it’s important to have open lines of communication.
According to the National Education Association, about 88% of parents believe their student’s teacher acts as a partner for their student’s achievement. On the other hand, only 54% of teachers feel that parents do their part at home to support student learning.
Even if you do your best to communicate regularly with parents, the partnership won’t be meaningful without engagement on their end as well. Let parents know the importance of parent-teacher communication for their child’s academic success. Research has found that students with strong parental engagement in their studies are more likely to:
- Show positive behaviors and attitudes at school
- Opt for challenging academic programs
- Earn higher grades and graduate high school
- Develop realistic plans for their future
#5: Remember: Not all parents look the same.
Keep in mind that not every “parent” is literally a student’s mother or father. Students with less stable home environments may live with another relative such as a grandparent, with foster parents, or with another type of guardian. Additionally, some students may live with parents who can’t speak English, who work an irregular schedule, or who have some other barrier to supporting their child in a traditional way.
Students in these situations are most at risk for being negatively impacted by the equity gap, otherwise known as the achievement gap. Take time to plan various communications methods you could use to best reach nontraditional parent figures, and be ready to suggest alternative resources for children who can’t rely on their parents for homework support.
How will you address the equity gap this school year?
If you don’t feel confident that your school has the resources or strategies in place to effectively close the equity gap, schedule a free consultation call with CSAS to learn about our customized school transformation solutions.