Despite the myriad of tangible benefits to working towards a free-flowing and open relationship with parents, it can be an uphill battle. Many parents have very busy lives and find even making the time for Parents’ Evening to be a struggle; others might be disenfranchised or even doubtful of the benefits that a working relationship can bring.
1. Designing robust infrastructure
This is about processes and administration. If we take the example of sending a letter home: it needs to be written up, the parent’s address and details fetched from your database, enveloped and despatched. Even if it’s sent home with a student – that won’t guarantee that it reaches its destination! Also, it’s difficult to quickly respond to if they’re already a busy parent. Consider alternatives such as text messaging, emails, or even social media solutions! Better for the planet, easier to reply to, and conducive towards developing a relationship.
2. Start early with online communication
Whilst engaging in discussions about schooling may not immediately catch their imagination, it’s important to open online channels that parents can use. Start the term with an email to each parent, and/or a quick text message – introducing yourself and letting parents know that you’re available if they want to reach out – a good reason to reach out is to explain their academic planner and the reading records that parents can check up on.
3. Use the student planner to get key points across
A lot of key information can be neatly tucked into a student planner – including an introductory message for parents, as well as information on connecting parents with teachers, raising awareness of the online platforms.
4. Be seen!
It’s important to help parents believe that you genuinely want to hear from them. Try meeting parents at the school gates at pick-up time, in addition to sending those start-of-term emails we mentioned earlier!
5. Take advantage of free online platforms
Most parents will already have accounts on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a great idea to try and take advantage of that by creating online communities where parents can connect with staff, discuss concerns and issues, and contribute their own ideas moving forward!
6. Involve parents in extra-curricular planning!
Parents, just like your students, will come from a wide range of backgrounds and from all walks of life. Many will have fascinating stories to tell and experiences to share – and some will have great specialist skills that can form the backbone of practical, after-school workshops. Trades professionals, mechanics, nurses, and journalists – to give a few examples! Taking advantage of those skills and running workshops not only benefits your students but can cement a co-operative attitude between parents and teachers.
7. Make sure parents feel that they matter to you
Some parents might be more willing and forthcoming in trying to reach you than others. So, if emails go unanswered and calls go unreturned – parents are going to inevitably lose faith that they’re going to be listened to. That’s the opposite of what you want! Try as much as possible to prioritise any inbound correspondence from parents, as it could be the first step towards the relationship you’re after.
8. Building trust
With good administration, a multi-channel approach (including social media), and a physical presence at the school gates, you’re on course for a great result. However, there are always going to be hiccups along the way. This could come in the form of a dispute over term-time holiday, or issues with class sizes – just to give a couple of potential examples. A combination of all of the above, and a commitment to prioritising parent involvement and communication – can achieve the dream of parents allied to teachers – both working hard to ensure the best and brightest for tomorrow’s best and brightest!