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A Principal's Perspective on 'Parents as Partners'

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Every school year starts with students receiving rules of conduct they are expected to follow. Parents are often required to sign off on these behavioral expectations.

But what behavior is expected of parents? How can they successfully advocate for their children? Defining "what works" for parent-school interactions might be a worthwhile undertaking at every public school. Asking (not telling) parents to follow a short list of guidelines could open lines of communication that were previously blocked, or that have broken down.

While every school leader has his or her own idea about how parents should communicate, the suggestions set forth by elementary school principal Peter DeWitt in the Education Week Finding Common Ground blog may be an interesting starting point.

These aren't official "code of conduct" fare. But they do speak to the tension between educators and parents—both wanting the same thing, to see students succeed, but coming at that goal from very different viewpoints, possibly with vastly different assumptions and definitely with only some of the information.

Peter asks parents to remember the following:

  • Teachers and administrators shouldn't be surprised if parents talk negatively about the school if teachers and administrators talk negatively about parents or worse, about their children.
  • As educators, we will believe half of what your kids say about you if you only believe half of what they say about us. Kids are kids and they don't always get stories correct. If something seems like a red flag, seek out the teacher.
  • Go to the "lowest" level first. Don't go to the principal about a small problem with a teacher that you never spoke to. It's like having someone go to your boss without ever talking with you first. Most times it's a miscommunication. If it turns into a bigger problem and you can't get a resolution, go see the building leader.
  • Don't "drop in" to see a teacher. Many times they have 25 kids or more in their class and those students and their parents deserve the best teacher that they can have. If there is an issue, send an email or make a phone call.
  • Email - I love technology and communication but email can take on a tone that is not there for teachers and parents. Or worse, it can take on a tone that is there! Don't email back and forth because sooner or later you'll need to make a phone call. Save the keyboard from the banging and pick up the phone.

Does your school offer any guidelines for how parents are asked to interact with educators? It would be helpful to see some examples.

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