Nothing can destroy a teacher's year (and reputation) as much as poor parent-teacher relationships. Parents are a teacher's best friend, or worst enemy. I've seen teachers in tears more than once after dealing with a particularly difficult parent. Why does that happen? Usually, it's because a parent isn't convinced a teacher is on their child's side. That doesn't mean a teacher agrees with everything a child does, but it does mean that parents know the teacher cares about their child, and wants what is best for them. It's impossible to work with a parent to change behavior if that parent thinks a teacher doesn't like their child. Sometimes even teachers who are the most caring get on a parent's bad side. How can this be avoided? Actually, a few simple actions on the part of a teacher can make even the most difficult parent an ally. I know, because I've used each and every one of these ideas, and I can tell you they work! Give them a try!
2. During the first week or two of every school year call each and every parent. It should be a short and upbeat phone call to just check-in. Tell them how much you like having their child in your classroom (even THAT child...his parent has NEVER heard that before). Ask if there are any questions and tell them you look forward to seeing them at conferences, or whatever school event is upcoming. It's this two to three minute phone call that sets the stage. It's especially important for students who have behavior/work problems. You need a good foundation with parents to address problems later on. I never, ever, ever talk about any problems I may have already noticed about any child in this first phone call. If a parent asks about behavior, I always say that it is the beginning of the year and we'll address any needed issues as they arise. This is a positive phone call. There's a whole year ahead to discuss problems. I did 5 calls a night until I was done. If a parent isn't there I leave a message like: "This is Mrs. ____ I'm just checking in to see if you have any questions and to tell you how happy I am to have _____ in my classroom this year. If you have any questions please call me at ______. If it's too late in the school year to do this now, be sure to put it on your "must do" list for next year. It's well worth the time!
4. Listen to what parents have to say. There's a lot to learn about their discipline style, family issues and other things you need to know to help the child.
5. Give concrete and specific ideas to parents about how they can help. If you call about a problem, give at least two ways the parent can help solve the problem. Some parents just don't know what to do. Invite parent input too. Parents have some good ideas, use them.
6. Share successes! Give a quick call to share something wonderful the child did. "I was so proud of Jenny today! She helped our new student learn the rules in the class!" That not only shows the parent that you notice what is going on, but you care enough to let them know too. By the way, that student will come in the next morning with a big smile on her face! Keep a list of who you have called, so you hit everyone at some point through the year.
7. Give parents the opportunity to help in the classroom. Parents can become very suspicious if they think you don't want them around. Parents can read with struggling students and a host of other activities you need done. When they feel welcomed, they know you are sure enough of yourself (and your teaching) to include them. In short, welcoming parents into the classroom says you know you are a good teacher, and you're not afraid to have them see what is going on. It's amazing how much this one thing can help your relationships with all of your parents. Again, they do talk to each other!
Hope these ideas are helpful. If you have any other ideas to add, please do!!