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How-To: Work with Students' Families

Make the Home-School Connection at the Beginning of the Year Lisa Kihn

It is very important to let parents know that you are an advocate for their child and that you want to work with them throughout the year to ensure that their child (your student) has the best possible experience.

I like to give students a questionnaire to take home on the first day of school that allows parents to share with me as much as they want to about their child. Most parents have a very good sense of their children as learners and appreciate your soliciting feedback from them.

The following are some questions that I generally include:

  1. What does your child like best about school?
  2. What would you like me to know about your child as a learner?
  3. What are your goals for your child this school year?
  4. What are your child's goals for this school year?
  5. Have there been any recent changes in your child's life that you would like me to know about? (a move, a divorce, etc?)
  6. Would you be willing to volunteer some time in the classroom or share an expertise?

Depending on your comfort level, you may also ask about parents' careers, who the child lives with if the parents are divorced, if their child has experienced any learning or social problems in the past that they would like you to know about, etc.

The main idea is to let parents know that you are concerned about their child as a person and a learner in your Class, and that you are interested in getting to know each child well enough to provide the best possible learning atmosphere. I have found that parents respond enthusiastically and sometimes attach extra sheets!

It is a good idea to file this in an accessible spot (though you should be sure to keep it confidential) and bring it out during parent-teacher conferences. It gives you a good starting place for discussion.

Weekly Updates

Sending weekly updates home on Fridays is a good way to keep parents informed of their child's progress during the week. I have found the benefits of this consistent communication to be worth the extra time it takes to fill these out. See attached A Note From the Sixth Grade Team.

Each teacher writes any assignments that a student is missing at the end of the week. Students take home this sheet as well as the missing work and turn them both in on Monday. I also use this sheet to write specific comments, complements, concerns, etc. that may have arisen during the week. Parents expect to see this sheet every Friday and sign and return it with any comments on the following Monday. I send it home every Friday with all the students in my homeroom, whether or not they are missing assignments.

This system prevents students from having a backlog of overdue assignments and keeps parents apprised of their student's progress. Many parents respond with a question or comment and this ongoing dialog is a great way to keep the lines of communication open. It also prevents any 'surprises' at parent-teacher conferences or with report card grades.

 

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