As you start the school year, take an opportunity to open a door to healthy dialogue with parents about the day-to-day events in their child’s classroom. Research reveals that when parents are more actively engaged and informed about their children’s education a more positive result can occur for everybody involved in a child’s education.
Parent engagement is an attitude, not just a list of activities, materials, or curriculum. It is an interaction that respects parents and treats them as equal partners with the school and teachers. That does not mean conversations about curriculum or subject matter do not matter. They are extremely important.
Creating a receptive environment and developing constructive relationships with parents, can lead to needed support for your excellent work in the classroom. Maintaining and sustaining a dialogue on the importance of education with parents is also critical to the success of your classroom, as well as a key to student progress and academic success.
We know that students perform better in school if their parents are more involved in their child’s education. However, out of the almost $720 billion that will be spent on the education of students in the United States, very few dollars are spent on teacher-parent communication.
Yet, with today’s technology, being an informed parent has never been easier. Nearly every school has a portal where parents can log in and see what going on in their child’s classroom. Many teachers have their own web pages. Some sites even link directly to your child’s grades in the teacher’s electronic grade book. In the unlikely event that the school does not provide you this access, you can always email the teacher(s) to see exactly what projects are due/when and what is happening at the school.
Parents and teachers alike should remember these tips from Teachthought.com when communicating online or in person:
1) Be careful use of tone–nothing that can be misinterpreted.
2) Assume all communication will be recorded or screenshot and may be seen by everyone in your district. (It probably won’t be, but this is a good reminder that digital communication is public and permanent.)
3) Use clear and concise language.
4) Positive communication should be more frequent than negative.
5) Maintain student and family privacy. Be aware of what is shared when, and with whom.
But do not forget your physical presence. Just showing up to volunteer once or twice a semester will show your child and your child’s teacher that you care. If you work and absolutely cannot get away in the day, volunteer at after-school events. You can help organize a party or field trip even if you are not available to attend.
Regardless of your method, your child can sense your presence. Stay in touch with your child’s school/teachers and there will be few surprises. This will lessen the stress level for the parents, the teachers, and the students. It truly is a win/win for everyone.
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Bethany Bowman is the director of Professional Learning for Professional Educators of Tennessee, a non-partisan teacher association headquartered in Nashville.