Communicating Effectively with Students' Families

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  • 0:03 Parents as Partners
  • 0:52 Working with Parents
  • 2:16 Communicating Special Needs
  • 4:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Parents are essential partners in educating children. How can teachers build meaningful relationships with them to ensure effective communication? This lesson gives strategies to make parents part of the educational team.

Parents as Partners

Jack is a new teacher who is learning the ins and outs of teaching. One of the best lessons he's learned so far is the importance of building strong relationships with the parents of his students. From the first day of school to the last, Jack will reach out to parents in various ways. Why is this important?

Strong relationships with parents benefit everyone involved - the parents, the teacher, and student. Working in a strong parent-school partnership makes the parents feel more comfortable at school settings and gives them a voice in their child's education. The teacher benefits from parental support of homework, learning, and interventions. Finally, when parents and teachers have a strong relationship, the student benefits and is more motivated and successful.

Let's take a look at the strategies Jack uses when communicating with parents to build the parent-school partnership.

Working with Parents

Jack did some simple things from the start, like smiling when he saw parents, learning their names and who their children are, and making it a point to say positive things the first few meetings. When he needs to talk to parents about concerns he has in the classroom, he follows this procedure:

  1. First, he begins the conversation with a smile and a positive observation about the child
  2. Then, he shares the concern in a neutral, non-accusatory way
  3. Next, he tries to be specific about the issue
  4. Lastly, he asks the parents to share their experiences

Let's look at an example of a conversation that Jack has with Sally's parents to see how this works.

First, he begins with the positive observation: 'I was really proud of Sally yesterday as she worked in math. She used several strategies to help her figure out a problem.'

Next, he shares a concern using neutral language to describe a specific issue: 'I noticed Sally sometimes seems distracted when working independently.'

Finally, instead of asking the parents whether they agree, which may make them feel awkward, he invites them to give feedback on the problem: 'I'd love to hear your thoughts about this.'

Jack makes it clear to parents that his goal is to help their child and that the parents are important to this process. He asks them to be partners in making decisions and to provide resources, if necessary. This way he works with parents to make all his students successful in the classroom.

Communicating Special Needs

Sometimes Jack has students who need intervention services for behavior or academics. He needs to work with families and other professionals to promote positive change for these students. He uses effective referral procedures to provide support for both the student and the family. What does this look like?

Jack first checks with his district to find out the proper procedure for referrals or interventions. Once he's clear on this process, he needs to reach out to parents, initiating a conversation to talk about his concerns. Like all communication, Jack needs to make sure he establishes a trusting and respectful relationship; he wants to make sure the parents feel supported and aren't threatened by the process. He does this by:

  • Using clear and simple language
  • Stating how to help the child
  • Listening to and responding to parent concerns, and
  • Telling parents who does what

As an example, let's say that as time passes, Jack notices a pattern of behavior with Sally that may suggest an intervention. He schedules a meeting with her parents with whom he already has a good relationship. Let's look at how he handles this parent meeting.

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