Parents are necessary team members in shaping inclusive learning communities. They know their children, they understand their child as a student, individual, child, and a member of the greater community. We need their support!!!
As a teacher, I totally understand how busy our days are: juggling papers & duties, lesson planning and supporting many many students throughout the day in all aspects of school. It is so easy to forget how important a connection with the parents is with everything else going on. BUT, we need a strong and positive relationship with the people who can support us the most, parents and families.
Consider these tips for improving connections with this awesome group:
1. Smile When You See Parents Greet the the parents when you see them- even with just a wave and a smile. These simple gestures can go a long way in establishing a positive connection.
2. Communicate Often and in Various Forms Provide information about what's going on in your class: a weekly, or at least monthly, newsletter is ideal. Let the parents know what is to come, what has been accomplished, and fill it with those important reminders. Keep it short, clear, and and to the point. If you have new learning outcomes or changes to the reading routine, include that in the news letter. These news letters do not need to be differentiated to demonstrate the needs off all students, but they should be written inclusively so parents know their child is included in the planning.... even if they require significant support. Suggest things that they might ask their child about: "Ask them to tell you about what they learned last week about the letter A," or "Ask them to show you that song you watched on youtube."
3. Make a Positive Phone Call Home Make a call home for each student a few times a year that demonstrates something positive about that student. It does not have to be a long phone call, but just a quick call to let the parent know how great their kiddo is doing that month or that term.
4. Lead with the Good News Adhere strictly to this rule. Always start your conversations and communication with something positive. This simple rule goes a long way!
5. Find a Translator If you can't speak their language, seek a translator for at least one parent conference and/or phone call. Not only is this a kind gesture, but it ensures that the correct information is shared with parents.
6. The Power of Language Keep your language open, inclusive, and respectful. I have written often about implicit bias and underlying assumptions- acknowledging your bias is an important step in building an inclusive vocabulary.
7. Invite Parents to Share Find out what parents can share with your class and invite them in to share! Let them share their cultural traditions, interests, passions, skills, & knowledge with your class. This is a super fun practice, but also an amazing way to learn about other perspectives, kiddos, and family.
8. Smile at the Child Like a wave to a parent, smile at the child. DO THIS FIRST!!!! You are there for the child- and they should be the first one you greet. It is such a powerful relationship builder when the parents really see you interacting with their child.
9. Thank Parents & Share Success Let the parents know you appreciate their support (no matter what shape it comes in). You do not need to do big and grand gestures, but just a simple THANK YOU and tell them why you are thankful. These words will go a long way.