- These families did not have the option to choose you as the person to teach their student this coming year.
- You did not have the option to choose the families or even the students in your class this year.
- You and these families—these extended networks of your classroom—are both deeply, albeit differently, vested in the successful development of one person: their student.
This common interest gives you both a powerful framework within which to build a smart, connected relationship. As the teacher,
it is up to you to take the first steps to help families feel a part of your classroom.
In addition to the ideas we shared in our recent blog post, Back-to-School Ideas for Teachers to Involve Families, Part 1, the ideas in this post will take your family-classroom connection plans in even more great directions. Involving families and creating great partnerships adds value to your classroom, and most of all, to your students, all year long.
The Ups and Downs of Teacher-Family Partnerships
Partnerships—critical to success for everyone—can be tricky to forge, especially when emotions related to a student’s performance or behavior are involved. Oftentimes, the most common “conflicts” between families and teachers are due to a miscue, a misunderstanding, or unfamiliarity with expectations, each of which can tax the trust between parties. A teacher who explicitly shares class rules and expectations in August—and consistently sticks to and reinforces them all through the year—is likely to have less trouble defending grading or disciplinary decisions. Additionally, by making it clear from the start that you believe in each student’s potential and that you will treat each class member fairly and equally, families are likely to be more receptive to your plans and parameters.
In-Person Connections Are Invaluable
Another great way get to know your students and their families is through volunteering and coaching. These settings can open up opportunities for less formal exchanges and can help both students and families see you as an interested role model in your students’ lives.
Once the year kicks off, consider supporting your students and families at school and within the community. If you are new to the school and you’d like to gain visibility, you might volunteer at dismissal time or fill in for a regular in the car line for pick up (especially when it rains). If that’s not practical given your own dismissal-time responsibilities, offer to help with special school events.
If your school has after-school clubs and athletic teams, consider signing up to coach or lead one. Even if all spots are filled, you could offer to volunteer your time. It will be a great help to your administrators, too. If your school doesn’t offer these opportunities, you can still make a huge impact simply by showing up to cheer on your students at a school-sponsored game or concert. Taking the time to support students in their after-school endeavors will be appreciated and will further enhance your family-student-teacher relationships.
Being Fair Has a Far Reach
If you are going to make efforts to support any activities that are not affiliated with your school, though, choose carefully. To succeed with this approach means going to a broad range of outside events for a broad range of students. Many teachers stick to school-sponsored activities only in order not to be perceived as showing favoritism.
You’ll need to be sure you can honor every commitment you make. Students take these events, and your potential presence, seriously. For these reasons, many districts have policies that limit involvement to school-related events only. That’s why it’s important to check with your district before you make promises to attend an outside event for any of your students.
Make a Note Because Words Matter
We all live in a rapid-fire world where texts fly across screens and we are bombarded by electronic messages more times than we may care to count. No matter how many digital deliverables we receive, many people treasure handwritten notes, perhaps due to their rarity today. Many teachers keep blank notecards handy for forgotten birthdays, a tangible reassurance for a family member, or a special boost for a student. Handwritten notes can be tucked away to be reread or can be cherished for a long time to come.
A Few of Our Favorite Note Cards
You might want to check out the designed-for-teachers notecards from Teacher Peach. By working with teachers, Teacher Peach identified the right size card (not too big, not too small), and crafted messages that will resonate. Many different card sets can be found on teacherpeach.com.
You might also want to keep Teacher Peach’s Special Occasion Card Set in your desk so you can send the perfect card at the perfect time. Know that a student has a big event coming up? Show your support by mailing a card that says, “I Believe in You! Believe in yourself.” Initiate a positive relationship with families as school begins and maintain that relationship throughout the year.
Many Ways to Make a Family
In addition to the special types of cards described above, Teacher Peach also has two card sets that teachers especially rely on. Each thanks families in different ways. In this blog and in every Teacher Peach product, you’ll notice we refer to students’ home support teams as “families.” We do not use the term “parents” in our products or our blog. We understand that many more students than any of us might realize, do not have two parents at home. By referring to an adult in a student’s life as a partner and by not using the word parent, we are able to reach and acknowledge more family members and support systems for today’s students.
Perhaps as a teacher you are collaborating with an outside professional like a speech pathologist or therapist. Consider the Partner Thank You Note Card shown below. This note sends a message that you appreciate the ability to work together. The “You Know Your Child” Thank You Note Cards are more directed to the adult support systems for students and encompass parents, guardians, tutors, grandparents, siblings, distant relatives, and more.
Family Partnerships Matter All Year Long
Strong family partnerships benefit your classroom all year long. We hope you’ll explore some of the ideas in this blog post as well as our earlier post, Back-to-School Ideas for Teachers to Involve Families, Part 1. What are some ways that you foster relationships with your students’ families? Post your comments here. We’d so enjoy hearing from you.
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- July 21, 2015
- Randi Brill