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8 Tips for Reaching Out to Parents

1. Avoid Doing Battle

Always log and take notes on parent phone calls, a good practice in case you need to recall the details of a conversation (or if one took place). When parents get overly angry, emotional or offensive (which rarely happens), end the conversation quickly but diplomatically: “I hear you’re upset, but I no longer feel comfortable speaking with you on the phone. We should meet face to face, but with an administrator also present.” Then, report it to your department chair. Sometimes, five percent of parents will consume 95 percent of your time.

2. Keep Email Timely and Brief

When you receive e-mail from parents, reply the very same day. By not responding in a timely fashion, you make your school and yourself look lazy and unprofessional. If the e-mail is anything beyond a simple request, like reminding Dato to meet for extra help after school, it’s always wise to avoid a detailed exchange and request a face-to-face meeting instead. It’s remarkably easy to misconstrue tone and meaning via e-mail, which heightens fears and emotions.

3. Post Assignments Online

Post at least two weeks’ worth of lessons and assignments online, and they are easily accessible to students and parents alike. Few things hurt a teacher’s reputation more than being perceived as unprepared and disorganized. Besides, parents should know what their child is studying, and students should have a clear idea of what they will be learning. On many occasions, this planning will also allow you to meet with parents and students in advance about how to prepare for more challenging assignments. Moreover, when students miss days of school, neither they nor their parents need to e-mail or call you about missed work.

4. Involve Parents in Their Children’s Education

Great teachers welcome parent support and curiosity. In conversations with parents, express how impressed you are with something in particular that Levani or Salome did or said, letting the parents see that you really know and care about their child. Sometimes, parents ask what they can do to help their child succeed — and it’s crucial that you lay out an approach involving their direct action. Enlist their help as another coach, not as a surrogate.

5. Prepare for a Successful Back-to-School Night

Early on, the best way to earn parent support is to run a successful back-to-school night — which, in many cases, can be a lot of fun. When speaking to parents, do your best to bring the same vigor and eagerness you bring to your students in the classroom. Love what you teach, and make that known not only by what you say, but also by how you say it. Be animated, talk excitedly about your classes. All the while, be careful not to monopolize the short time you have together. You want to hear from the parents. You want to learn their hopes and fears for their student, and how you can support them in your collective mission to help all kids meet their greatest potential.

6. Call Home to Report Good News

Parents rarely receive a positive call home. Twice a semester, make a point to call and tell them how impressed you are with something their student did or said. It’ll surprise you when parents nervously answer the phone, as if a student did something wrong. They are all the more relieved and proud when you have just good news to report. These calls let parents know that you care as much about recognizing success and improvement as you do about spotting struggle and weakness. These calls also reassure parents that you’re not out to make life more difficult for their child, that you’re fair in your assessments and feedback, and that you genuinely want to see students succeed.

7. Look Professional

Nothing spells “unprofessional” more than a messy-looking teacher, especially when meeting with parents. Since you never know when you might run into a parent, it’s a good idea to come to school looking neat and professional. This is an even wiser move for younger teachers looking to earn authority in the classroom.

8. Participate in After-School Activities

This could be anything from coaching to attending as a spectator. You will enjoy interacting with parents on a daily basis. You’ll not only speak about how their child is doing athletically, but emotionally and academically as well. This rapport may help you realize how to communicate more effectively with teens, both on the field and inside the classroom.

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