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pbeens on 2011-06-23Teaching Secrets: Communicating With Parents
By Gail Tillery
Premium article access courtesy of TeacherMagazine.org.
You will face many challenging tasks as a new teacher. Dealing with parents is probably among the most intimidating, especially if you are young and in your first career. While communicating with parents can be tricky, a little preparation will help you to treat parents as partners and to be calmer when problems arise.
Here's the first rule to live by: Your students' parents are not your enemies. Ultimately, they want the same thing you want, which is the best for their children. By maintaining respectful and productive communication, you can work together to help students succeed.
Second, whenever problems arise, remember that parents are probably just as nervous about contacting you as you are about returning the contact—and maybe more so. I'll confess: Even after 26 years of teaching, I still get a little frisson of fear in my belly when I see an e-mail or hear a voicemail from a parent. But I have seen time and again that parents are often more nervous than the teacher is—especially if their child doesn’t want them to contact the teacher. Indeed, some parents may even fear that if they raise concerns, their child will face some kind of retaliation. Remember that parents' tones or words may reflect such fears. In your response, try to establish that everyone involved wants to help the child.
Here are some practical tips for communicating effectively with parents:
Contact every parent at the beginning of the year. Do some "recon." Telephone calls are best for this initial contact, since they are more personal than e-mail. Ask the parent to tell you about his or her child's strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, etc. Make sure to ask, "What is the best thing I can do to help your child succeed?" Remember to take notes! Once you've gathered the information you need, set a boundary with parents by saying, "Well, Ms. Smith, I have 25 more parent