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Healthy Parent-Teacher Relationships Start With Healthy Student-Teacher Ones

This is the fourth of a five-part conversation on how teachers can communicate effectively with parents.

Adrianne G. Williams

Some tips for building positive relationships with your parents and your school community (the things your teacher education program might not talk about):

Joining in school and community events. I try to be a public face at student public events. Students appreciate seeing their teacher in the crowd and they seem proud to know you came out to watch them perform. My school community is especially tight-knit and parents appreciate the act. According to Jones & Jones (2007), this "gives students and the community a chance to view teachers in a personal light and increase positive teacher-student interaction" (p. 90).

Arranging individual conferences with students. I often have one-on-one conferences with students about assignments and grades. In the past, I used these conferences to introduce subjects and topics related to the unit. Now I am trying to expand this concept and invite parents. My community of parents is generally happy to oblige and come out to discuss their students' progress. The process validates my students' cultural history, as we discuss their behavior and work. By requesting a conference with the parent this communicates my goal to get to know the student so they can be successful in class.

Sending letters and notes home. I label this action as a community support, because when you send letters, or notes, home with each student in a small and tight community it is an act that is discussed within the community. Positive letters or notes home should always be done early enough in the school year for parents to know this action is because you value their student. If a note goes home after negative feedback, you lose the parents. School is a part of a community of parents that interact and network with one another; upon receiving personalized messages, it becomes clear to parents that the teacher sees their child.

I use positive behavior management tools for my classroom. According to McGarth (2007), "these qualities include listening, noticing when they are absent, and being interested in them." (p. 3). I cultivate an environment where I focus on students' interpersonal qualities as well as academic. Students recognize this and operate in a respectful manner in my classroom, due to mutual respect and not fear. My students do not fear me, and I am not perceived as a "mean teacher"; as a result, parents support me. Even though this causes some personal agitation, I understand that I rule my classroom as I rule my life.

Following my personal motto, to be a light in someone's life, I keep my classroom management perched precariously on a thin order of control. It is a tightrope in asserting that I constantly greet students by their names, understand their personal interests, make obscene efforts to know and understand them as individuals outside of school, and disclose information about myself to bridge common experiences (McGarth, 2007). However, as daunting as this task may be, it is worth it when students and parents view you with trust.

Further Reading:

  • Jones, V., & Jones, L. (2007). Comprehensive classroom management: Creating Communities of Support and Solving Problems. Boston: Laureate Education. 
  • McGrath & Noble. (2007). "The big picture of positive peer relationships: what they are, why they work and how schools can develop them." Retrieved from the National Centre Against Bullying.

Adrianne G. Williams is an 8th grade English/language arts teacher for Guilford County Schools, in Greensboro, N.C. You can follow her on Twitter @Williaa14.

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