When I first started teaching, I had a lot to learn. And I really didn’t know what to say to parents. I was a rookie teacher, a newlywed with no children. What am I supposed to tell them at parent/teacher conferences? “Logan’s doing great” or “Madeline needs to turn in her homework on time” is about the best I could think of.
But if we truly want to be effective, we need to learn how to communicate with our students’ parents. And even better, how to develop meaningful relationships with them. It’s not always easy, but it is definitely worth the effort.
Here are a few things I have learned about communicating with parents.
- Have as much positive communication as possible. Be intentional about sending home positive messages about your students. If a parent has already had two or three positive messages from you, they’ll respond much better when you have to discuss a discipline issue.
- Send home more versus less. Err on the side of too much communication instead of too little. If your school has an online system, post as much information there as is reasonably possible. Email can also be a great way to send out a lot of information without spending too much time (while also ensuring that the letter doesn’t die a slow death in the depths of your students’ backpacks). When you notice an academic or a discipline problem, communicate with the parents sooner versus later. If you wait too long the problem may have already mushroomed out of control.
- Know when to pick up the phone. Email is great, and I use it all the time. But sometimes you need to pick up the phone or schedule a face-to-face conference. If you’re finding you’re writing a book of an email or you’re wondering if the parent will be upset by your message, then that’s a cue that a real conversation may be needed. I recommend a phone call whenever you have to give out any significant disciplinary consequences. That way you get to inform the parents of the real story and to get on the same page with them.I had a student once who was eating M&M’s in class. After being told twice to put them away, she continued to pop candy in her mouth. When I called her mom to inform her of the detention, the girl had already told her mom about it. But she told her that she got a detention for eating in class and “wasn’t that so stupid.” I’m glad I phoned the mom to tell her the detention was for disobedience, not for eating candy.
- Have customer service. Depending on the type of school you teach at, your parents may or may not be paying tuition. But either way, we should always try to have great customer service. Do everything you can to make your school look good and to help the parents have a good experience.
- Be humble. In all our interactions, we need to set aside our pride and display genuine humility. When we approach a conversation with our guard up and ready for a fight, a fight is most likely exactly what we will get. But when we swallow our pride and lower our defenses, we allow God to work in and through us. Seek first to understand the parent’s concern before you try to explain yourself. Don’t get defensive and be prepared to adjust your position if necessary.
What challenges have you faced in communicating with parents? What other lessons have you learned? Leave a comment by clicking here.
Photo by splityarn