Communication is Critical
On-going communication with your students and their their parents is key. Phone calls, notes, emails, high-fives, and token rewards are all examples of ways to communicate positive news to students and parents. Note the word, “positive“. We all know that there may be times when communication with parents has to happen on a negative topic such as poor behavior or grades. Would’t it be nice to have a positive relationship already in place with that parent prior to breaking the bad news? Of course it would!
Having a pre-established relationship means that you have a MUCH better chance of the parent responding well to your news. They are more likely to offer suggestions and be willing to help you in anyway they can. I’ve also seen that parents trust you when they feel they know you and that you have genuine care for their child. This trust and care is conveyed to them by on-going communication.
Parents become assured that you want the best for there kids when you have taken the time to notice and praise their positive traits. Hence, they are open to considering your recommendations by having a calm and productive conversation with you.
So how do we get to this point? Well that’s up to you.
Although some parents go out of their way to meet you and come to all school functions; the vast majority do not. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a negative view of school or that they don’t care about their child succeeding; it could just simply mean that they don’t have concerns, have full-time jobs, or feel that if there is news to communicate it will be initiated by you. Whatever the situation, you are ultimately responsible for contacting parents to forge cooperative relationships.
To begin, write a letter to all parents at the start of each new year. This letter can be the same for all students and should introduce yourself, express your optimism for the year, and desire to have on-going communication with them throughout the year. Make sure you encourage them to contact you at anytime through calling the school or using your email (provide it in the letter).
Follow your letter with a phone call within the first two weeks of school. This initial phone call MUST be only positive in nature. Provide an example of what their child has done well in your class thus far. It could be academically related, behaviorally related, or perhaps about their social interactions. Believe me, I know that this may take some creativity on your part but it will be worth it!
Calling each students’ parents can seem like an overwhelming and time consuming task. Many say, “teachers don’t have time for this!” Trust me on this though – you don’t have the time not to do this. This initial positive phone call will pay off in time and ease for you as your school year goes on. When you have cooperative parents, you have cooperative students. YOU will achieve more during the day. YOU will have less stress when needing to contact parents and with overall classroom management because students know that you have on-going communication with their parents. This is huge!
After this initial call proceed with communication through positive notes that you write periodically in students agendas, send an email now and then to parents about how their child is doing, and send a notes home. Try your best to make these forms of communication positive. That way, when you have to contact parents for their support they will feel as thought you look for the positives despite current concerns. Parents can quickly become defensive when all they hear is negative comments about their child.
By nature, parents are wired to protect their children. If they perceive you as being against their child because all they have ever heard you talk to them about is their child’s negative struggles, they are not going to trust you nor will they be wiling to support your efforts in creating change.
Communicating with students follows the same foundation as communicating with their parents. Stick to these key criteria and you will be much better off:
- Use as many positives as possible . The saying is true, “It takes 5 positives to undo just 1 negative.
- Be specific as possible when giving a praise. Think of yourself as a camera as you describe the wonderful things that a student is doing. Taking notice of the specifics and taking the time to acknowledge them is heart warming to kids.
- Write positive praise on top of their papers. Put stickers on their desks and/or in their agendas. Give them thumbs up and high-fives. Provide classroom jobs and praise students for their efforts. Put their name on the morning announcements for a job well done. Give them a certificate to take home. Any of these ideas will provide acknowledgement to your students in verbal and non-verbal ways.
- Use weekly class meetings as a time to not only problem-solve for classroom issues, but to also recognize student effort and achievement. Select 5 students each week and continue to rotate through your class so that everyone is included.
On a special note, not every student appreciates praise. There are those who get embarrassed easily or those who may become aggressive when they feel they are being singled out. Take this in stride and keep their praise private. Wait until there are no other students in you or room, slip a private note or certificate in their bag, and communicate with their parents to recognize this student for their hard work and positive choices. You may know their child for 6 hours a day, but they truly know their child best.
Keep communication going and success will follow!
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Barb, LMHC, CPC, Ed.M, CAS