Then came a multi-state move and a new job. The new school was completely different with a defiant population and weak school-wide behavior management plan. Sometimes I would make 10-20 separate phone calls a day to parents. It was not one of those "I'll put a toe in to test the waters" situations but more of a "shoved right in to the biggest wave without a boat, paddle, life-jacket or floaties." Let me tell you, my parent communication skills developed QUICKLY!
My goal with this blog post is to give you some ideas and strategies for developing relationships with parents so that if you have to make that dreaded "phone call home" it will be more of a check in and check up. Scary stuff at first? Maybe. Can you do it? Absolutely!!
Step One -- Join the Conversation
But you can't have good relationships if you hide out in the music room and never connect with others. You must actively build relationships. You have to actually try to reach out to families and get to know students and parents both. This can feel daunting when you have upwards of 400 students, maybe even spread across multiple buildings and multiple grade levels. However, there are some tactics that you can use to start working on relationships.
My friend Aileen Miracle has this fantastic and editable kit that makes creating a newsletter a breeze. What she's created is a template to use on Microsoft PowerPoint. You the teacher just add content in the text boxes and print! With 9 designs and 43 templates to choose from, you have lots of options to get exactly what you want!
Step Two -- Make a Positive Connection FIRST
So, make the first step and lead with a positive note. In fact, you could start out by sending home ACTUAL notes. I frequently use this set of "I can" statements with kiddos to reinforce what we're learning in class. I hang the posters out in the hallway to show passersby (could be parents, administrators, etc) what things we're learning in class. One day I got the idea to print these statements out and send them home with kids at the end of a unit. I printed one side in English and one side in Spanish (at that point I was at a school with a high ELL population). I had so many parents come up to me and thank me. They were excited to learn that their students were doing well and loved to know what sorts of activities their kids were involved with in school. Throughout the year or at the end of a marking period I would send home more notes as a sort of summative reminder of what the student had learned. It was a hit!