It’s not enough to keep parents pleased, appeased, or out of our hair. If we’re committed to bringing the best out of our students and teaching the whole child, we need to build and maintain long-term relationships of loyalty, trust, and respect with their parents. Investing the time and effort to work closely with parents throughout the year maximizes our chances of fulfilling our mission and achieving our goals. The following points provide a strong rationale as to why teachers should make parent involvement a top priority.
1. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. Though not all teachers are parents, all parents are teachers. As such, they have the greatest impact on a student’s motivation to learn. Parents are usually eager to play a significant role in their children’s education, but they often don’t know how. By establishing caring relationships with parents, we can help them help their children.
2. Consistent communication between the home and school enables parents to reinforce the skills, knowledge, habits, and priorities that we emphasize in class. This fact is especially true in situations where our teaching methods and approaches may differ from the norm and require parent follow-up on a regular basis.
3. It’s important that teachers are aware of students’ strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, areas of special sensitivity, and any factors at home that are affecting school performance. Parents are in the best position to provide this information and are usually glad do so when asked.
4. Students act, behave, and perform differently when they know that their parents and teachers communicate frequently.
5. Frequent communication earns parents’ confidence, trust, and respect. With open lines of communication, it’s unlikely that feelings of uncertainty, mistrust, and alienation will ever arise. The favorable impression that we create makes problems easier to solve when they occur.
6. When teachers and parents communicate in a respectful manner, we model positive adult interactions for the kids. These occasions serve a pro-social function because many children, unfortunately, don’t often have the opportunity to observe this type of relationship.
7. Parents can become our biggest supporters and most loyal allies. Should a colleague or supervisor ever doubt our methods or question our approach to teaching, these allies will be there to come to our defense.
8. Parents are often valuable classroom resources. The better we know parents, the more we’ll be aware of the various ways in which they can assist the class. This assistance may come in such forms as classroom volunteering, donations of supplies and other materials, technology support, and arranging for special field trips.
9.Forming trusting relationships with parents can reduce the feelings of isolation that so many teachers, especially newer ones, often experience.
The parents of our students are our partners. Commit to making parent involvement a top priority as you begin the next school year. Keeping parents informed and involved on a consistent basis pays huge dividends as we focus on the academic, behavioral, and social needs of our students. In order for us to teach the whole child, we must work with and value the whole family.
Steve Reifman is a National Board Certified elementary school teacher in Santa Monica, CA. He is also the acclaimed author of several books, including Changing Kids’ Lives One Quote at a Time and Eight Essentials for Empowered Teaching and Learning, K-8, and the creator of the Chase Manning Mystery Series for kids 8-12. For tips and strategies on teaching the whole child, visit http://stevereifman.com.