REAL CHALK on Parent Relationships

real chalk archive Sep 14, 2017

This REAL CHALK post was delivered yesterday to our subscribers via email and is being archived here on our Blog. This week's newsletter message is a revisit to our post FIVE STEPS TO GREAT PARENT RELATIONSHIPS.


We all know the feeling of getting a message from That Parent. First, BREATHE. Then try these tips for working well with all the parents and guardians in your classroom...

1. Know your audience.

Spend some time “listening to the customers” early on. At Open House, notice which mom is asking you about the research based assessment, and which dad is telling his child to clean up his desk. The one who wants to be sure that the kiddo uses only HER crayons, and the two or three that didn’t show up at all...

Make a few notes to yourself. Pay. Attention. You will be way ahead of the game, just by observing the adults you will be dealing with in your class.

2. You are never the Expert.

You may know reading scores, you may know math deficiencies, you may know 23 “better behaved” children. You still are not the expert on that kid.  Instead of making sage recommendations, try problem solving together.

One way to do this is to invite input: “I am unsure where your kid would focus best in my room. What do you think?”  Let them know you are a PARTNER, not a Mentor, in their child’s upbringing.


3.  Ask for the agenda, don’t tell.

Start any conversation, especially any “tough” one, by ASKING, not telling:
Thanks so much for coming in today. Before I begin, I would like to ASK you, is there anything important on YOUR mind? I want to be sure we cover that FIRST.

More than once, I thought a parent was going to give me a hard time and in fact, they were out of ideas on dealing with their kid, too. Let them tell you the problem, BEFORE you start in trying to solve it.


4. Answer. Your. Emails. (But don’t give out your cell)

If you don’t pay attention to the important people who are asking for your attention, they will soon be demanding it. Parent Problems don’t go away. They just become Problem Parents. Be prompt, even if it is just to say you are researching an answer.

On the other hand. Keep sensible business hours. Don’t reply to parent email in the evening or on weekends. If you do reply, even once, you have set the expectation for 24/7 service, for ALL your parents.

As for the cell phone, simply: NO. Would your mother have ever called your teacher at home? Exactly. I don't care that you like texting parents. There are apps for that, without giving out your number. NO.


5.   Keep it student centered.

No. Really. Not that sappy “I believe that children are our future” thing.  I mean literally THAT child is at the center of the parent’s universe and therefore, that child is also at the center of your every communication with said adult. 

It will save you time and aggravation to remember this. You and I both know that you have big challenges ahead, in meeting the needs of your whole class… and they know it, too. Reassure them: You are focused on the needs of EACH, not ALL.

Then: Wash. Rinse. Repeat. You will win them over, one family at a time, the same way you built a relationship with each of their kiddos. Have a wonderful year!


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