Building Relationships & a ONE DAY ONLY Sale!

Today we're talking about something that's near and dear to my heart as both a teacher AND a parent...parent/teacher relationships!!!  But before we get started, let's get some housekeeping out of the way.

TODAY ONLY (August 22), Teachers Pay Teachers is having a back-to-school BONUS sitewide sale! You might want to snag some of those items on your wish list before the sale expires at midnight (EST).


Just be sure to enter the promo code ONEDAY at checkout to get your discount!!! 

And here's a quick little shopping tip.... 

If you're looking to see if I have something you might need, you can always type keywords in the "Quick Find" bar (pictured below).  For example, if you're wondering if I have any Apple themed resources, you can type in "apples" and the products I have relating to that keyword will pop up.



You can also browse through the Custom Categories tab on the left hand side of my store.  This is a great way to search based on specific concepts/skills, thematically, subject area, etc.  


Now let's move along with our regularly scheduled programming, shall we?!




Establishing and maintaining relationships with parents!!!

When I first started teaching about 14 years ago, I was a very timid and insecure 23-year-old.  I was unsure of  myself as a teacher and I was nervous as all get out about talking to parents.  I remember being asked (by several different parents) on meet the teacher night my first year, "how old are you?!?!" I remember thinking how they must have thought I looked too young to be teaching their babies.  Oh, how I wish I still had that problem. 
#grayhairdon'tcare #crowsfeet #wrinklesfordays

I remember being so scared to tell parents about their child's behavior...would they accuse me of lying?  Or say I didn't know how to handle my kids because it was my first year in the classroom?  
I walked on eggshells when it came to important conversations.  I wanted to seem competent.  I wanted parents to love me.  I remember being terrified to talk about the "hard stuff"...low test scores, struggling learners, etc.  I wanted to bypass those conversations and talk about all the cool things that were going on in the classroom.  Being a professional is tough! 
 #thestruggleisreal

That first year in the classroom taught me SO much about myself as a teacher...both professionally and personally.  I learned to put on my "big girl panties" and deal with it all.  For me, it was all trial and error.  I made a lot of mistakes and there are situations I wish I could take back and do-over.  But without those experiences, I wouldn't have learned and grown...both personally and professionally :) 

Since that first year, parent/teacher relationships have always been important to me...even the hard conversations.  I'm even more sensitive to these relationships since becoming a parent myself.  
My goal as a teacher has always been to have strong relationships with my parents.  I know some of the girls I've taught with think I'm nuts for having hour long conferences with my parents.  I just can't stop talking. I love building those relationships!!!  

To this day I'm still great friends with SO many of my former parents.  I even had a few of my parents drive from Dallas to Houston when I got married 12 years ago!  Every year I get Christmas cards from many of my former families and I love keeping up with them all on Facebook, too.  Really, they've all become part of my family.  Part of who I am as a teacher.  And I love them to pieces.

I'm definitely no expert when it comes to these relationships, but I think it's an important conversation to have and I wanted to share a few little tips I think  (in my own experience) are really important for establishing and maintaining them.



1.   Making deposits before taking withdrawals
Oh goodness is this important!  As a parent, I don't want the first thing out of my teacher's mouth to be something negative about my kids.  Trust me...I know they can be a handful, but ohmiword...hearing the bad before the good would sure make me wonder if they see anything good about my child at all.   Every parent's wish is for a teacher to love their child and see the good in them {or maybe that's just my wish??!!}.  I always try to keep that in mind.  Every student is someone's child. 

Every year we have our sweet little stinkers.  We really want to nip their not-so-desireable behavior in the bud before it gets out of control and our first line of defense is to pull clips/call parents/send home notes, etc.  I'm not saying any of that is wrong, but if that's the first conversation our parents have with us, we're probably less likely to bond.  That could make for some really awkward and tense conferences in the future and it could put our parents on the defense if other situations arise throughout the year.  Until you're able to have positive communication with your parents, try and find the best in every student and focus on that.  Make a deposit before taking a withdrawal.

Here are some tips:



-Make a positive phone call home to each of your parents/guardians the first few weeks of school. This establishes a good connection with your parents and starts the year off on the right foot.  Don't email.  CALL.  Call a few different parents each day so that you aren't trying to fit it all into one afternoon.  If you're worried about getting "stuck" on the phone in a long conversation, preface the conversation with, "I know you're busy and I don't want to keep you, but I just had to call you and tell you how much I love having Susie in my class!  She is always so happy and I love the way she takes the initiative to help without being asked.  This is going to be a great year!  I just wanted to let you know!!"  



-In addition to a phone call, send home a handwritten "thank you" card to each of your parents the first few weeks of school.  I've done this for years and always have parents tell me how much they loved the gesture.  My thank you cards read something like this....
"Dear Mr. & Mrs. Carroll, 
Thank you so much for trusting me with Landon.  He is such a sweet boy with so much potential and I can tell this is going to be a great year.  I am so excited to watch him grow this year.  He is so kind to others and has such neat handwriting.  He loves to participate in our group discussions, too!  Thank you so much for giving him such a great foundation and preparing him for our year together.  I'm looking forward to partnering with you this year and if you ever have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, please contact me at (123)555-5555.  This is going to be a wonderful year!
Sincerely, me"
I always try to include something specific about their child in the note (handwriting, participation, etc.).

- Keep a "behavior sheet" for every student in your class.  At the beginning of the year, organize these into their portfolios.  Carry around a clipboard with blank labels.  When you notice something great about your kids, jot it down on a label and stick it on their "behavior sheet".  These behaviors could be ANYTHING...works well with others, helps without being asked, very attentive, always positive, etc.  Notice the good and jot it down.  When you want to make a positive phone call home or send home a quick little "happy note", you'll have specific examples of things to include in your conversation :)





2. Be Accessible
An "open door policy" can mean a lot of different things depending on where you teach.  As teachers we definitely want to establish boundaries.  It can be distracting for our kids when there are too many visitors and it can definitely throw off a routine and cause interruptions in our instructional time.  Make sure those boundaries are set, but also make sure that parents know they are welcome.  If your school doesn't allow parents in the classroom, this might manifest itself by way of phone calls and conferences.  I personally give parents my cell phone and tell them "if you can trust me with your child for 10 months, I can trust you with my phone number.  I may not get back to you right away if I'm spending time with my family, but if it's an emergency I will contact you as soon as possible."  This sets boundaries in a nice way, but also lets them know I'm there for them if they need me.  Of course, this doesn't work for everyone, but it's something I'm comfortable with and it works for me. And I always want my parents to know that they can contact me about anything...if they're unsure about something, have a question, are upset, worried, etc.  Whatever it is, I want them to know they can contact me about it.  I personally prefer phone calls because tone can't be read through an email and so many things can get misconstrued and taken out of context.  HOWEVER, I also know that email is important for documentation purposes.  




3.  Be Upfront
Don't be scared to talk about the hard stuff.  You're not doing anyone any favors by tiptoeing around the hard to have conversations.  As always be professional and kind, but by all means, be upfront.  Parents need to know if you have concerns and you need to tell them exactly what your concerns could mean for the future.  They most certainly don't want to be blindsided by anything.  If your sweetie is bullying his friends, let your parents know what you see so they aren't in shock when he is sent to the principal for something really serious.  If your sweet baby is struggling in various academic areas and isn't on track to be promoted to the next grade level, let your parents know before the last day of school.  Nobody likes to be surprised!!  




4.  Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!!!
I don't think I can stress this one enough!  I've always had great relationships with my parents, but there have been a couple of times when parents have been upset with me (happens to us all!) due to a misunderstanding or miscommunication.  Parents are the best advocates for their kids and I always encourage them to do just that...advocate for your babies!!!  Heck...I'll advocate for mine because I know no one else will.  All that to be said, the better the communication, the less you'll have to worry about anyone misunderstanding.  Here are some things I've found that really help keep parents in the loop.

- Parent/Teacher Conferences - I'm not talking about the conferences you're required to have 3-4 times a year.  I'm talking about the conferences that are needed to discuss pressing issues....behavior, academic concerns, bullying, etc.  Be proactive and set-up conferences when you feel there's a need. 



- Weekly Newsletters - Let's be real.  Our students aren't always forthcoming about what's going on in their classrooms.  I know when I pick up my boys at the end of the day the first question I ask is always, "how was your day?!?!" or "what did you do today??!!"  The answers are always "fine" and "nothing", LOL!!!  But it's SO true!!!  Being a parent myself, I always want to know what my kids are doing when they're not with me.  What are they learning?  What can I do at home to help them be more successful in the classroom?  Are there any special events/birthdays/activities coming up?  A weekly newsletter keeps them in the loop and aware of what's going on.  I email my newsletter to my parents and include a section for "What We Learned This Week", "What We're Learning Next Week", "Upcoming Events/Birthdays/Activities", "Important Reminders", and "Kids Say the Darndest Things".  


-Simply Circle - This is an EXCELLENT platform for communicating with parents!!!!  If you're not familiar with Simply Circle, you must check it out!!!!  




5.  Love Their Kids
If you do nothing else, LOVE their kids.  Even the babies that are hard to love.  Love them.  Be kind to them.  SMILE at them.  Praise them.  Compliment them.  Hug them.  Make them laugh.  Listen to them.  Love them, love them, and then LOVE THEM SOME MORE.  When you love them, they love you and in turn, so do their parents.  I have LOVED my boys' teachers to pieces because I know they've loved my boys.  I hear what my boys say about them.  I hear how my boys feel about the way they're treated.  They have LOVED their teachers and because of that, I have loved them, too.  
If you can and if you feel comfortable, here's a tip...


-Spend time getting to know your kids OUTSIDE of the classroom.  Attend dance recitals, baseball games, church events, etc.  You can't attend every single event for every single child, but try to attend at least one.  Send home a little survey or questionnaire at the beginning of the year asking your parents for a schedule of their child's extracurricular activities/events.   Just an extra little something to show you're invested in WHO they are...not just who they are in the classroom.  And ohmiword, the look on your kid's faces when they see you at THEIR event?!?!  Priceless!!!!


And just remember that sometimes, no matter how much you communicate...how much you praise...how much you LOVE their child...some parents might not see eye to eye with you and/or your teaching philosophy.  Sometimes they want what you can't give.  Sometimes they don't want what you're giving.  But as long as you have their child's best interest at heart....and as long as you are doing everything you can to give their child every opportunity possible...that has to be enough :)  
Just remember to be positive and professional in every situation and take every experience as a learning opportunity.

What are some things you do to establish and maintain parent/teacher relationships?!  I'd love to hear more!!!

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