How do you make your classroom parents adore you? One word: trust. When parents trust us, everything goes better. But how do you build that trust? Big and little gestures over the course of a school year can establish a strong relationship so that in the end, your classroom parents will be your biggest fans. We asked teachers for ideas. Here are 11 of our favorite tips.
1. Call home early.
Bite the bullet and put in a few extra hours for this idea that yields a huge payoff. Call each family in your class (yep, all 27 of them) and check in with at least one parent per household within the first month of school. Let’s be honest: That feels like a lot to accomplish during the craziness that is the beginning of the school. But the rewards are huge. You can ensure that the first contact with the parent is positive (Tip: Call the parents of any high-needs kids first just to make sure you don’t miss the window!) One phone call can open the lines of communication and set the tone for the school year. This little bit of effort on your part can really help the parents feel valued, and when parents think you value them, they’ll value you right back.
2. Send old-fashioned snail mail.
People don’t get many real letters anymore. That’s why a note from the teacher over the summer can mean a lot to your students and to their parents. Even a photocopied form letter is a nice touch. If you have time, a handwritten note can add a little magic too, and you can even wait until the first day of school to send it home. Check out these sweet notes that Laura from The Core Inspiration wrote to her students on the first day of school. Parents relax and warm up a little when they feel like you really know their child.
Source: The Core Inspiration
3. Share pictures and videos of the school day.
On my daughter’s first day of kindergarten, I was a little bit of a weepy mess. A lot of us parents are. Her teacher won me over when midway through the day, she texted me a picture of my 5-year-old baby smiling and having a blast on her first day of school. She continued to text pictures of big events throughout the entire school year. Five years later, I still treasure those pictures. My daughter’s teacher was brave and willingly gave her cell phone number to every single parent in her class. Most of us, though, are a little reluctant to open ourselves up like that, which is why a parent-teacher communication app like Bloomz (we reviewed it here last year) can be such a lifesaver. You can easily text or email pictures and videos to one parent or all of them without giving up your personal information.
4. Send home a “First Day” keepsake.
Want your parents hugging you in gratitude on the very first morning of school? Give them a gift that is guaranteed to tug on their heartstrings a little bit (but not too much, we don’t want them sobbing in the hallways!) Have each child present this sweet poem to their parent at morning drop-off. If you really want to take it to the next level, try to grab snapshots of your kids before school starts (we used our kindergarten round-up event) and paste a photograph of each child next to the poem. An instant connection forms when parents feel like you really understand them—and that connection is often enough to last the whole school year.
5. Make memory books with your students.
If you make it an annual tradition to share sweet pictures and keepsakes from the school year, parents of rising students will look forward to them and you’ll be building goodwill before any students actually cross the threshold of your classroom. Memory books don’t have to be a ton of work either. Check out this post from the The Primary Pack, which shares a super-easy way to curate and assemble your memory books. (Way easier than a bunch of late nights at the end of the school year!)
Source: The Primary Pack
6. Make yourself available.
At my last school, we were fortunate that parents were really involved. They were also anxious about sending their child off to school and needed a little hand-holding. As soon as I assured them that we’d be quick to connect with them, and that they could always connect with us, I’d watch the tension drain from their faces and see relief set in. Many teachers are starting to use apps to make this kind of connection easier. All your parent connections can happen within the app, and you can keep all your parent contact information there too. Classroom news, sign-up sheets and just conversations can all happen digitally. It’s a time-saver, and it helps teachers keep professional boundaries in place. Jessica B. says, “I started using an app this year. I love it. I am able to message parents directly, send group messages, post PDFs, upload pictures of class to share with parents. It’s my new favorite app.”
7. Send home a “Tell Me About Your Child” form.
Parents love to talk about their kids. If you give them an opportunity to share what they want you to know early in the year, you can save yourself some time later. Here’s an editable form to use from A Differentiated Kindergarten.
Source: A Differentiated Kindergarten
8. Share personal details about yourself (but not too many!).
When you can present yourself to parents as a real person (and not some stern teacher they may remember from their own childhood), they’re more likely to treat you like one. Once my classroom parents knew that I had school-age kids too, there was instant camaraderie. It’s OK if you don’t have kids—parenting doesn’t have to be the connection. It could be a shared interest in cooking, sports or any number of things. One teacher I know connects with parents because she is a tried-and-true fan of our local football team. Everyone knows it and loves her for it, even if they root for the rival team. Check out this About Me printable from Laughing With Lane. She even has a version you can edit to plug in your own information.
9. Make a parent wish jar.
If filling out an entire “about my child” form sounds like it could be too much for your classroom parents, consider a parent wish jar. Each parent jots down a quick wish for their child on back-to-school night. It’s simple, to the point, and still helps parents feel like they’ve connected with you. You can download this template from Funky First Grade Fun.
10. Keep parents in the loop about good behavior
(and challenging behavior when you need to).
Parents love hearing compliments about their children, and feedback from the teacher often carries more weight. Plus, if you do have to share hard news about academic challenges or behavior, it’s likely to be received better if you have cultivated the relationship with positive comments and feedback. You can use one of the cute forms we found below. Many teachers have also started to go digital when it comes to tracking and communicating about behavior and use an app for daily updates.