Build a Productive Parent-Teacher Team

By: Joe Bruzzese


The last United States Census reported that young adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours in the care of someone other than their parents. Couple this with adolescents' growing need for independence, and it is easy to see how many parents lose touch with their kids as they traverse the middle grades. Teachers, coaches, and mentors fill in the information gaps that gradually appear as kids begin to disappear from their parents' view.

Don't wait until Back to School Night to make contact with your new group of parents. Get off to a good start by following these four tips for productive parent-teacher relationships:

Make contact early. Parents expect to see a pile of papers come home during the opening days of a new school year. Surprise them with an e-mail newsletter or a "Meet the Teacher" homepage online with a short video introduction. Websites like Weebly.com, Wordpress.com, and Edmodo.com offer free website tools that make communicating easy for all levels of teacher tech users. Notice who responds with an e-mail reply or comment. Make note of your tech savvy parents and their potential for assisting the class with technology-related projects.

Focus on the positive. A fellow teacher shared that each day he made phone calls to five students' parents. Each call was a short (2–3 minutes) acknowledgment of a student's effort. Parents don't expect a call home from school unless there's a problem that needs attention. Surprise your parents with a call that focuses on a positive point from their child's day. Coming prepared for class, participating, and exhibiting an enthusiastic attitude are positive behaviors parents want to know about. Making positive calls builds a solid foundation for your parent-teacher relationship. When you do need to address a problem, your request for parent assistance will be met with a positive response rather than resistance.

Ask for input. Before Back to School Night arrives, send out a survey, by e-mail or as a handout, asking parents to rate their level of concern about common middle grades issues. Bullying, homework, test taking, Facebook, cell phones, and friendships are among the top concerns expressed by many middle grades parents. Use the survey results in your parent presentation. Parents want to know that you value their input. Discussing concerns at the start of the year helps to minimize problems later.

Post progress. Continue to build your relationships by alerting parents when their students engage in exciting activities and ask parents to do the same. Parents often feel out of the loop, due primarily to their child's unwillingness to communicate. Share highlights from the classroom via video post to your website or with a special newsletter alert. Encourage parents to send an e-mail or call when their child earns recognition for their efforts at home or in an after-school activity. The more you know about your students, the stronger your relationship becomes with their parents. Productive parent-teacher relationships result in higher student achievement.

Your initial connection with parents lays the foundation for a year-long relationship. Given that children spend a significant number of their waking hours at school, teachers play an essential role in a child's life, as do coaches and mentors. With your support and encouragement, both parents and kids will be better able to thrive in the months ahead.


Joe Bruzzese is the author of A Parents' Guide to the Middle School Years; a nationally recognized parent education speaker; and founder of Sprigeo.com, an online bully reporting system; and founder of MiddleSchoolYears.com, an online resource for middle school parents.
Copyright © 2012 Association for Middle Level Education

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4 Comments
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4 comments on article "Build a Productive Parent-Teacher Team"

In this piece, you highlight four tips for teachers in communicating with families. I find all four of these tips helpful in keeping a positive, productive relationship with parents. I had never thought to send out an introduction before the school year begins, but I can see how that would be a positive start with communicating with parents. Additionally, I think focusing on the positive is important in establishing a partnership with parents. No one wants to hear negativity all the time. Parents should always be actively informed and included, and following these tips can help teachers do so.

—Jennifer
11/4/2014 6:47 PM

Any tips are good tips for dealing with parent relationships, because as a future educator that is one of the most terrifying aspects of teaching. Along with it being a terrifying aspect it can be one of your greatest tools as an educator. Parent involvement is key when trying to reach our students. Having a positive relationship with parents is the building blocks, that's why I really liked the tip of calling them to have positive things to say about their children. This helps eliminate the negative connotation that goes along with a call home from a teacher. Our passion as educators along with parental support we can truly help and reach our students in middle level education. This can be one of the most difficult times in a adolescents life, and it is our job to support them through it.

—Garrett
11/10/2014 1:09 PM

There are four statements that will help the communication between parents and teachers. That is one way to keep a positive and productive environment in a classroom. Both teachers and parents have a huge part of a students life and one way to collaborate that is to have good communication between the two. I think sending out little positive notes about each student to their parents is a wonderful idea. Also keeps the parents informed on what you are teaching the students. Another great idea was to send out introduction to the parents. Especially if you are new to the community and many people don't know you yet. Finally I thin asking for input is a wonderful idea. As a teacher we might not have the same concerns as some parents do, so if the teachers are barley to help with some of those concerns that would help the parents out a bunch! Wonderful points Mr. Bruzzese!

—Blair
2/17/2015 1:32 PM

There are four outstanding tips for teachers to communicate with parents.I think these tips are so helpful when thinking about starting my own classroom. I agree that having a positive relationship with parents will so much in any future situations. I had never thought to send out an introduction before the school year started. This is something I will personally think about when starting my classroom. I also really liked the idea of contacting parents to recognize the students positive achievements and not just focusing on communicating the negative. Building a good relationship with parents is vital to have successful communication.

-Michelle

—Michelle
2/22/2015 6:39 PM

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