Building Relationships with a Student's Family to Manage Behavior

By Eric Antuna on August 13, 2009

If you are like me, so often at the beginning of the year, you find yourself in the middle of putting up butcher paper on bulletin boards, organizing centers, getting libraries together, and arranging desks, that often you kind of put off that first day: what to do. Many of us have first day activities (mine is at the end), class letters for parents, and homework (yikes!) already to go. But, that age-old adage always rings a bell about now: First impressions really do matter.



Now, I'm not saying that you have to dress with your best Prada on your first day (your professional attire will do just fine!), but making that connection with parents on a personal level will do wonders in creating a warm and welcoming classroom. That parent connection is so vital to home-school communication, spending just a few minutes the first day of school meeting with parents before school, after school, even during school as they are walking to get the little ones to their kindergarten classroom goes a long way in parents and family members understanding that you not only are their child's teacher, but also someone who cares about the success of a young person.  

As a side note, I define 'parent' as any parental figure for that particular student - be it a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, they are all the same. Many of the students at our school have one or no biological parents in the home, making understanding each child's family dynamic that much more important and meaningful. This also helps when writing cards during holidays and birthdays, keeping things generic such as "Write a card to someone in your family you'd like to thank," instead of "Write a letter to your parents thanking them." Or when addressing notes home: "To the Family of" seems more inclusive than: "To the Parents of".

Going back to management, when making that contact with parents on that first day, you get to know them on a more personal level, even calling them by first name. When a child disrupts your class, you have your classroom management system (or if you're looking for a different one, try www.powerteachers.org) that helps provide students with various consequences, a note or call home is most likely one.  Imagine pulling out your cell phone and telling the defiant student, "Should I call Sheila to tell her how you are behaving in class?" That first name/personal relation with the parent makes a big difference in managing students.  

Of course this will not work with all students, nor is it for just defiant students. Maintaining that contact is important for helping parents understand student progress, achievement, and accolades.  

Do you have an idea for classroom management?  Let us know!

Thanks for reading!

Eric

My First Day Activity: Shoe Interview

Materials:

Pencils
White board/markers for directions
Lined card stock
Scissors

Tell students they are going to conduct a "shoe" interview.  Explain the process (below).  Write questions that they are going to ask their interviewee. I put questions on the board they are to ask. (sample questions: 1. What's your name? 2. How old are you? 3. Do you have a brother or sister? 4. What is your favorite ice cream flavor?)

1. Everyone takes off their left shoe (even you!)
2. Everyone puts them in a pile.
3. Everyone gets a chance to pick a shoe.
4. Everyone traces their "new" shoe on the card stock paper and cuts it out.
5. Everyone matches their shoe to its owner and conducts a "shoe" interview. 
6. Everyone "reports" on their shoe interviewee.

Makes a great bulletin board with the title: STEPS TO SUCCESS!

PS: Don't forget the Scholastic book order (Mega bonus points in September!!), Staples Teacher Appreciation Days, and OfficeMax back to school sales! 

Comments

Eric-Thanks for the good advice on dealing with behavior and drawing the parents into help you. I look forward to hearing more of your great ideas in the future!

Amy-

Thanks for the comment! I really think building those relationships with families makes it so important to help you deal with behavior in the classroom. If you have any success stories, please share them!

Thanks!

-Eric

I just found your blog and I am loving it! Thank you for the reminder. It is August 25th and school starts in one short week. I am yet to be allowed in my classroom and won't be able to step foot in until the 31st. Everything I own is in boxes and I am coming into construction central. What a great reminder you provided me with. I don't know how much I will get done in the room before the kids return, so this year more than ever is going to be more about communication than looks.

I think you're right that often teachers lose track of the fact that having a good looking classroom isn't what will connect teachers and students. It is taking the time to connect with families and students that will be the most impactful and lasting. My school has helped to enforce the priorty of connecting with parents by having our Back to School Night the second day if school also! This removes the stress that teachers feel in having a perfect classroom for parents to visit, since the walls should display student work! I hope to hear more about your school site and your experiences teaching studnets that other teachers might shy away from. Thanks!

Jay

Jay-

I completely agree with you. Thanks for sharing what your school is doing with others. It really helps when we all collaborate together! -Eric

HI Eric!

I love your blog! I think I want to come observe you before I start 2nd in a couple weeks if that's okay?! since I was in 1st I need a refresher and I want to steal your ideas! :) Let me know if that would be okay and when!

Hey Robyn!

Call/email me anytime you want to come in to observe!

Eric

While I like Prada, I do have to admit... I prefer Gucci. Thanks for the "Shall I call Sheila" idea. As you know, I'll be teaching 5th grade next year and I predict that having my cell phone in close proximity in addition to using first names MAY come in handy. I love it! I'm eager to see what other tips you have up your Prada sleeves.

I think you'll find it such a good tool to use in the upper grades!

-Eric

Great tips Eric! I am going to share this with my teachers! I agree with you 100% on getting off on such a positive note with the parents from the beginning. Its amazing how far just a smile can go these days! Have a great year and I'll be following your blogs!

Denise- Please do! Please let me know if any have topics that we would be able to discuss! Thanks! -Eric

loved your comment about addressing communication "to the family of..". so correct!

And, i send home a note before the first parent conference that basically says, "We are all too busy. If you can come in this one conference, I won't bug you again because we have met. We can talk on the phone after our first meeting !!". Many of our parents work two jobs or on different shifts, etc. they need all the support they can get.

Camille-

I completely agree! Getting to those parents when you can, meeting them in the middle, are always so helpful when dealing with students!

Thanks for sharing!

-Eric

I love the shoe idea and the reminder on how to address notes home. It really is a great idea to keep in mind that each childs home life and situaiton is different. One day I will wear Prada on the first day though!

Mandy- It really does go a long with with some student's families. So often we forget how unique each child is (and should be allowed to be).

-Eric

Eric- that first communication with parents is so important! In my summer letter to families, I invite families to write me a letter about their child. They can include their thoughts about their child's likes and dislikes, habits, hobbies and what the parents know about how their child learns best. Not all families take advantage of the opportunity to write these letters, but I do feel that the letters I receive give me a 'quick snapshot' and help me plan for the beginning of school.

Once school starts, I make sure that I take some time during the first one or two weeks of school to call each child's home and talk to a parent (or sometimes an answering machine!) to welcome them to grade two, to tell them about their child's great start to the new year and maybe share an anecdote about something I noticed the child doing well. It's a great positive and proactive step that goes a LONG way to setting up a good school-home connection with the families of the children I teach.

Charlene- What a great idea! I love the letter idea! That really lets the family know that you're interested in the whole child. I love it! I think I'll use that in a homework assignment this week! A call home for things other than discipline really helps that home-school communication and really helps to keep parents positive about their child's education. I really think that it should be be a rule of thumb for positive communication go home at least 2 times per grading period. Imagine how many parents' perceptions would be changed!

Thanks! -Eric

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