This is the third part of a three-part series of best practices, written by Michele Narov, Lead Teacher in Newark Public Schools.
Kinvolved’s communication app helps teachers reach parents and other members of students’ support networks to foster relationships. How can teachers make sure these relationships are positive and that the communication app is used to reach full impact?
Tip #10: Get to know your parents as people.
None of your parents are named _________________’s mom or _______________’s dad.
Surprisingly, nobody told me this when I started out, or I would have avoided some awkward dismissal time conversations, when I racked my brain to remember parents’ first and last names. During my second year, I took the time to introduce myself by name, smile at, and learn and remember the names of my parents, and whenever possible also learn little bit about them as people.
For older grades whose parents do not pick them up from school every day, referring to parents by names over a message can still add a very important personal touch.
Tip #11: Never assume your students and their parents share a last name.
I am always careful to not address parents with the last name of my students and to double-check my parent contact sheets to ensure I am using the correct name. More often than not, my students and their parents do not share the same last name, and some people may be offended by the assumption.
Tip #12: When reporting a positive or negative classroom behavior, be specific and avoid ambiguous qualifiers.
This is such an important tip, and I still hear stories from fellow teachers who fall into the minefield of ambiguity. If you tell a parent, “Your child is off task at school,” they can easily misunderstand what happened. If you tell a parent, “Your child poked the girl sitting next to him with his pencil 3 times during math, and did not complete his worksheet,” you have a shared understanding of events.
This is true for positive calls, too! It sounds so much better to a parent to hear, “Alicia aced her last 3 math exams, and today she helped the student next to her to work out a really difficult problem,” than to hear, “Alicia is doing well in school.”
Tip #13: Only leave voicemails or send texts with positive news.
If I have negative news to report, I want to speak directly with a parent. If I get a voicemail, or send a text, I try to just leave a brief message asking that the parent call me back.
Tip #14: Invite parents into your classroom!
Does your school have career days? Invite your parents! We do parent breakfasts a few times a year. This year, the other third grade teacher hosted all of our parents during the holiday season for a gingerbread making competition with students. It was a really great way to get to know parents and also allow parents to get to know one another.
Tip #15: Offer instructional resources
Your parents want to help their kids, but not all of them know how. Provide them with websites, tip sheets, workbooks, and resources whenever you can. Kinvolved’s Community Managers can provide this directed support.
Tip #16: Find a translator!
Luckily, my school has a bilingual team and paraprofessionals who speak a variety of languages. But if you are a teacher at a school without access to translators, most school districts actually offer translation teams as a resource.
Contributor: Michele Narov was Kinvolved’s Summer Business Development Associate. She was responsible for developing and fostering partnerships with schools, after school programs, and community organizations dedicated to improving student success. Michele is a Teach For America corps member, and serves as a third grade math and science teacher at Camden Street Elementary School in Newark, NJ.