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How-To: Work with Students' Families

Parents and the Beginning of the Year Carl Sannito

It's the start of a school new year and as a new teacher you'd like to get things off on the right foot. One of the most important ways you can do this is by establishing regular lines of communication with your parents. Everyone knows that communication with students is important, no matter what grade you teach. We communicate with students what our expectations are. We discuss rules and policies of the classroom (and of the school) on the first day. You might explain what to expect throughout the school year and what type of work is going to take place. These are just the types of things that need to be communicated with to the parents as well.  

Parents need to have rules and policies spelled out for them in the beginning of the year. Expectations should be outlined, as well as curriculum and grading procedures. However,  since you don't always have the opportunity to see each parent everyday, it might be wise to take some aggressive first steps to open the lines of communication at the beginning of the year. If you are lucky enough to have some parents up within the first few weeks, take advantage of the moment and introduce yourself. A smile and a handshake go a long way to establishing a partnership.  

But if you can't physically meet your parents right away, you might want to try writing a beginning of the year letter to your parents. Introduce yourself and give a little bit of background information about yourself. This can be extremely important to new teachers. Explain what types of plans you have for the year or at least for the first quarter. If you have any unusual requests, spell them out now. You can include school supply lists too. Whatever you put in your first letter, remember this is your chance to make a first impression and first impressions last. If you come off as organized and professional, the parents will have a positive image before they have even met you.  

Another idea is to call each of your parents up, maybe two or three a day, and introduce yourself over the phone. Wouldn't it be great if your first phone call home wasn't negative, but a simple "Hi, I'm Ms. Smith. I just wanted to introduce myself and tell you how excited I am to work with you." You don't even need to make it a long conversation, but just let them know you're there. Tell them how they can get in touch with you (e-mail, phone numbers, etc.).  

I was taught a long time ago that communication is the key to success. When it comes to building a partnership and working as a team, this is definitely true. As teachers, we are all just part of the team. A team that includes parents. 

Do you have a comment or suggestion? You can e-mail Carl at carlsannito at yahoo dot com.


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