By Sara Arranz May 30th, 2014 10:00 AM
A good beginning is important for a strong ending. Every year, I make sure to start the school year by meeting each one of my students’ families. This introductory dialogue is the key to a successful year, and I really appreciate the information they share with me during that very first meeting.
You might be asking, “why is this contact important, and what should we talk about?” When you are talking with parents, let them know how much you care about their kids and how successful you want them to be. Offer your help and support unconditionally. But, do not forget to let them know their duties. In my experience, I must say that having a fluent and healthy relationship with my families at Cleveland has helped my students grow and achieve better results.
I’d like to share a few tips from my classroom that make me a more powerful educator and empower my families every day:
- Share your contact information with your families and provide them with your schedule and flexibility at the beginning of the year.
- Talk with your families about using the Internet and media to be able to receive and send messages.
- Share your expectations for the year with every family: classroom management, schedule, materials, homework, etc., and assure them that they can ask for help at any time.
- Make all those expectations visible in the room. Designate a board for their information.
- Display student work so that your families can see what their child is working on in class.
- Ask them to sign a contract to “work by your side”. They must agree to the procedures that will help students to progress. This includes things like punctuality, homework, attendance, help at home, etc.
- Explain the curriculum and methodology that you use in your class (Creative Curriculum, Tools of the Mind, and Reggio are a few examples for early childhood) and discuss how that methodology transfers to their daily life and home.
- Send homework weekly; it does not need to be anything intense but it has to be something that families can relate to and help with. Offer your help with materials, resources, and ideas.
- Write a newsletter. it is important for families to stay informed about the activities that are happening every month. Always add your contact information as a reminder.
- Find a time to call, email or text to share good news with them.
- Send families pictures or videos of their children working, exploring, investigating and sharing.
- Invite your families to class for interviews. Allow them to share their expertise, read with students, or help out with a field trip or lesson. Students love to see their parents involved, and it reinforces the idea that “my parents care about me.”
- If a conflict arises, find a moment as soon as possible to converse with that family and resolve it. Remember and remind them that you are both “in the same boat” rowing to the same island – educating our students.
- Celebrate the joy of sharing a wonderful job. You are both educating their children, and it’s important to find a moment to smile and enjoy it with them.
Finally, I would like to share part of my plan for next year. As part of my classroom “Innovation Plan,” I will be dedicating time during the initial weeks of the school year for a “School for Parents Workshop.” In these meetings, I will share information about expectations and procedures, discuss with them how to ask for help and where to find resources, and exchange best practices and new ideas.
In addition, I am so excited that next year we are going to start a home visits program where we will visit families in their own environment and context, making communication even easier and more accessible. Using these new strategies, I hope to build even stronger relationships with my families next year!