I’ve always maintained that teaching and learning is a three-way partnership between the student, the parents and the teacher. In previous years, at the start of the year, I have spent time nurturing relationships with students and their families. Last year, I didn’t feel like I gave this aspect of school life as much time and energy as I had in the past. Sure, I had great relationships with most of the students and their families, but not all of them. And, I paid the price for it; I felt like I was constantly chasing my tail, reacting to situations and defending myself. It wasn’t a pleasant way to exist. I was unhappy, my mental health suffered and from that, my physical health.
But I can’t change last year. I can’t change the interactions I had with families. However, I can change what I do now. This year, I vowed it would be different. I wanted to change the way I established relationships with families. These are some of the things I am doing to strengthen bonds with families:
- Conduct a family survey. This idea came from Pernille Ripp and is probably the best thing I’ve done to start off on a positive foot with parents. The information that came out of the survey has been, and will continue to be, incredibly useful. You can find a copy of my survey, which is based on Pernille’s, here.
- Contacting parents to discuss issues before they get out of hand. After reading the family surveys, I identified a couple of anxieties held by some parents, so I gave those families a quick call to chat about them more. As one parent told me, “It’s better to turn off the tap rather than mop up the mess.” I love this saying and used it when talking to parents at our recent Meet the Teacher evening. Some parents had similar questions about general issues, which I was also able to address at the Meet the Teacher evening.
- Calling parents for positive reasons. Parents always worry when the school calls – either their child is sick or has been misbehaving. I always begin a phone call with “Hi, it’s Anna here, your child’s teacher. Your child is fine! Do you have a few minutes to chat?” It only takes a few minutes out of your day, but means so much to parents; they really appreciate hearing some thing positive about their child.
- Inviting parents into our classroom, both the physical space as well as the virtual classroom. Last year, the Year 4 team began a once-a-term’Meet the …’ afternoon, with the focus changing according to what we were studying. Parents love coming in and chatting to ‘convicts’, ‘scientists’, ‘playwrights’ and, this year, ‘bloggers’. They always comment about how much students have learnt and how well they can articulate themselves. Parents are also invited to join us on our blogging journey by subscribing to both our class and individual blogs.
How do you connect with families and establish positive relationships?