Building relationships is one of the most essential part of teaching. When we hear relationships in relation to school, we immediately think of the student-teacher relationship. While this relationship is significant, it only a piece to building the community with the family and their child to form a strong team. Everyone has to work together to meet the common goal of the student having a successful school year.
Build relationships by Working as a Team
The “team” has to communicate consistently to build and maintain a strong relationship. This task can be overwhelming to a teacher that has to build these “teams” with 25+ students. It does take time, but it is worth it and will make a huge impact on your students and your school year.
Relationships start with a Positive Open House
In schools in my county, teachers call their students during pre-planning to introduce themselves as their teacher and to invite the students to open house. Many times this is the first time “meeting” the family. You have to be upbeat, excited, and authentic. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make it good!
Open House is your next (or first) interaction with your new students and their families. Open House is busy and can be overwhelming, but it’s very important to be present in the moment. Make a point to speak and begin building the connection with your students and their families. Open House isn’t time or place to have a parent teacher conference, but a time to connect. A couple of present minutes with your students and their families will build the foundation for a solid relationship.
Building Relationships in the first Week
In the first two weeks of school, I call all my parents to share compliments, stories, and/or positive comments. You can make a couple of calls a day. This spreads it out and makes it a more manageable task. I began doing this when I first started teaching. I felt a little silly doing it because I was a new teacher and no one else was doing it but I felt it added value to their relationships I was building. As I began to see the positive impact it was having and I realized it is ok to go against the grain when you instincts lead you down a different path than others.
To help keep track of parent/family communication, I use a notebook. I keep notes for each call and email with dates and a short note about the communication. I send a positive email every two weeks. Every six weeks, I make a positive phone call. Once it becomes a habit, it becomes an authentic part of your schedule. I use email to share “brag moments” and celebrations with families.
Uncomfortable conversations improve relationships
Throughout the school year, you will have to have uncomfortable conversations with parents. You need to go in every school year, building relationships, so when it’s time to have the difficult conversations the foundation is laid and trust is there. You should have several interactions with parents before difficult conversations. When you have bigger situations with students, it’s always important to call parents over emailing them. Emailing is a great communication tool, but there are times when it’s not the best choice for reaching out to parents.
It’s very important to consistently send a weekly email. I include a recap paragraph about the week before, important dates, specials/pathway schedule, and school/classroom announcements. This is my version of a weekly newsletter. I do post this information on our online platform as well as send home a paper copy. I want to know as a teacher that I have reached and considerated all the home and family situations in my classroom. That means I have to put forth the extra time and effort to communicate with families in more than one form.
closing thoughts on Relationships
Having all these parent communications in place help build trust between the “team”. When difficult or uncomfortable conversations have to happen, there is trust and a foundation for a productive interaction. Allow focus on the relationship!