Is your parent-teacher communication on it’s “A Game”? Do you find writing notes and talking to parents about their student’s academics easy breezy? I do . . . now!
#Realtalk There have been several times in my 24 years as an educator that I have had parent conversations that have turned uncomfortable and awkward. I have the personality that does not do well with confrontation and I take everything to heart. On the home front, the last nine years I have become a mom to school aged boys that struggle at school in reading. Being on both sides of the fence is hard. I understand the concerns some of my sons’ teachers (yes…sons…because all 3 struggle) have but at the same time I don’t like turning the corner and walking the other way, every time I see one of their teachers coming my way.
Here are a few quick and easy parent communication tips that have worked for me the past several years.
TRICIA’S TIP #1
Talk to parents with understanding and empathy.
Most parents, I believe, really are trying the best they know how. Most parents I have personally worked with, love their children and see their kids as an extension of themselves. Some parents have had bad tough times themselves in school and already may feel negatively toward teachers. I have sat in countless IEPs through the years where my colleagues begin talking by listing all of the improvements that students need to make. IEP talk time can be short so some of my colleagues have come right out of the gate with negatives. Having the unique experience of sitting on both sides of the IEP meeting table as a parent and as an educator there have been times I have said to myself, “Did they just really say that to me? I would never speak that way to a parent. My child is struggling and we are doing the best that we can right now.” Win your parents over with smiles, kindness and compassion!
TRICIA’S TIP #2
Make a “Sunshine Call” as the beginning of the year or as soon as you can.
The first week or two of school I slowly work my way down the class list calling my new students’ parents. I tell parents I am so happy to be their child’s teacher. Then I share a quick positive I have noticed about their student. Most parents I talk to are so surprised I took the time to call and give a compliment to their child. They tell me the only time they hear from a teacher is when there is a negative in school. When you make a “Sunshine Call” at the beginning of the year, it is so much easier to call later in the year to say, “Hey I know we talked a little bit ago and “Charlie” was doing great, but right now I am seeing a few challenges. I was calling to see if you could help me because I know what a great kid “Charlie” is.” I already laid a little ground work that I am not a “Negative Nelly” so most parents I have talked to are happy to help because they know I have shown that I care about their student.
TRICIA’S TIP #3
Communicate often and celebrate successes!
When I talk to parents I use “sandwich talk“. I sandwich a negative (I call them “challenges” in the classroom) between two positive statements. For example, I start with a positive like “I care about your child and want the best for them” (this is absolutely true…I adore my students) Then I will slip in something their student needs to work on. Lastly, I close the conversation with a positive about their child. Celebrating successes leaves my parents feeling inspired rather than deflated.
TRICIA’S TIP #4
Send home happy notes or quick forms that communicate how students are doing. I have a drawer filled with these easy to use forms that communicate beginning reading, phonics and math skills for my Kindergarteners. I highlight things students need to work on and write a few words of praise. There is my “sandwich talk” again but this time on a written form 😉
I just add a few quick positive notes to build confidence and celebrate success. Then I highlight challenges my students need support with at home. My parents love receiving these!