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Back to the Top Teaching Blog
September 4, 2017

Tips for Building Positive Relationships With Families

By John DePasquale
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Back-to-school season is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year for teachers, and we are in the thick of it! If you’re like me, the dawn of a new school year is an absolute frenzy of activity, making it hard at times to even catch your breath. With everything that needs to be done to start the year off right, setting priorities can be a real challenge. Building new relationships with students and their families is a top back-to-school priority for me. Since successful classrooms are firmly rooted in positive relationships, I devote time to establish these connections before the first day of school, and continue to develop them throughout the school year.

    Here are just a few tips you can use to establish strong partnerships with families:

    Personally Introduce Yourself: Since first impressions are important, I make a quick phone call to personally introduce myself to the families of my new students. I start making phone calls about two days before the first day of school, and it really doesn’t take that long. Since there are other opportunities later for longer conversations, I keep the phone calls short and sweet. During the call, I tell families my name, share my contact information with them, explain what to expect during the first few days of school, and I’ll answer a few questions if they have any. I end each call by personally inviting them to back-to-school night. These personal calls help to set a positive tone for open communication for the new school year.    

    Share Successes: Sharing students’ successful moments with their families spreads positivity. I love sending those messages and families absolutely love receiving them. I try to make sure I’m communicating positive messages to families more often than communicating messages that are not very positive. If my first and only conversations with parents are about a negative issue concerning their children, it’s a much more difficult conversation to have and it doesn’t promote a positive teacher-family relationship. Instead, my advice is to share as many successful moments as possible with your students’ families. It’s easy to do. Just write a quick note on an index card, add a big smiley face, and send the note home. You could even capture the successful moment in a photo then text or email it home with only a few thumbs taps on a smartphone.     

    Reach Out to Hard-to-Reach Parents: For a number of different reasons, some families might be hard to reach. I try to be mindful of actual or perceived cultural, linguistic, or economic barriers between families and schools, and take steps to dismantle the divide. I received a crash course in this my first year teaching when I was a young 22-year-old new teacher in East Harlem. I was in my classroom very late after school one evening when my amazing principal, Mr. Soto, stopped in to check on me. Asking what was on my mind, I told him about a student I was struggling to work with and that all of my attempts to reach the family were unsuccessful. From phone messages to letters sent home, I told him I tried everything, but I soon learned I clearly hadn’t. Knowing this particular family and their situation, Mr. Soto told me to grab my coat and to follow him. We walked two blocks to the family’s apartment where we were warmly received when we arrived. With my principal’s help to translate my terrible Spanish, we explained why we were there and we made arrangements for a meeting at the school. Positive changes started to happen after that, and my relationship with this family eventually grew into a supportive partnership.

    It’s not practical, of course, to just show up unannounced at the door of a student’s family, but this one experience taught me to be more thoughtful and deliberate in my efforts to connect with all families. I also learned not to be afraid to ask for help. Knowing the family, the neighborhood, and the language, my principal helped to bring the family and me closer together.

     

    Create a Welcoming Space: Beyond just back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences, I think it’s important to invite families into the classroom so they too can share in the learning. I extend an open invitation to my students’ families. Families are always welcome to schedule a visit or to volunteer to either read to the class or to help teach a special lesson. I also invite families to our gallery walks and learning shares at the end of major units.

    Since it’s difficult for some families to visit during the school day, we also welcome families to events before and after school. This year we plan to expand our popular math nights for families. During math nights, we teach strategies and thinking routines that can be used at home to support students.    

    For additional tips for working with your students’ families, visit these blogs posts:

    I wish all teachers, students, and families a successful new school year full of exciting learning!

     

    Back-to-school season is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year for teachers, and we are in the thick of it! If you’re like me, the dawn of a new school year is an absolute frenzy of activity, making it hard at times to even catch your breath. With everything that needs to be done to start the year off right, setting priorities can be a real challenge. Building new relationships with students and their families is a top back-to-school priority for me. Since successful classrooms are firmly rooted in positive relationships, I devote time to establish these connections before the first day of school, and continue to develop them throughout the school year.

    Here are just a few tips you can use to establish strong partnerships with families:

    Personally Introduce Yourself: Since first impressions are important, I make a quick phone call to personally introduce myself to the families of my new students. I start making phone calls about two days before the first day of school, and it really doesn’t take that long. Since there are other opportunities later for longer conversations, I keep the phone calls short and sweet. During the call, I tell families my name, share my contact information with them, explain what to expect during the first few days of school, and I’ll answer a few questions if they have any. I end each call by personally inviting them to back-to-school night. These personal calls help to set a positive tone for open communication for the new school year.    

    Share Successes: Sharing students’ successful moments with their families spreads positivity. I love sending those messages and families absolutely love receiving them. I try to make sure I’m communicating positive messages to families more often than communicating messages that are not very positive. If my first and only conversations with parents are about a negative issue concerning their children, it’s a much more difficult conversation to have and it doesn’t promote a positive teacher-family relationship. Instead, my advice is to share as many successful moments as possible with your students’ families. It’s easy to do. Just write a quick note on an index card, add a big smiley face, and send the note home. You could even capture the successful moment in a photo then text or email it home with only a few thumbs taps on a smartphone.     

    Reach Out to Hard-to-Reach Parents: For a number of different reasons, some families might be hard to reach. I try to be mindful of actual or perceived cultural, linguistic, or economic barriers between families and schools, and take steps to dismantle the divide. I received a crash course in this my first year teaching when I was a young 22-year-old new teacher in East Harlem. I was in my classroom very late after school one evening when my amazing principal, Mr. Soto, stopped in to check on me. Asking what was on my mind, I told him about a student I was struggling to work with and that all of my attempts to reach the family were unsuccessful. From phone messages to letters sent home, I told him I tried everything, but I soon learned I clearly hadn’t. Knowing this particular family and their situation, Mr. Soto told me to grab my coat and to follow him. We walked two blocks to the family’s apartment where we were warmly received when we arrived. With my principal’s help to translate my terrible Spanish, we explained why we were there and we made arrangements for a meeting at the school. Positive changes started to happen after that, and my relationship with this family eventually grew into a supportive partnership.

    It’s not practical, of course, to just show up unannounced at the door of a student’s family, but this one experience taught me to be more thoughtful and deliberate in my efforts to connect with all families. I also learned not to be afraid to ask for help. Knowing the family, the neighborhood, and the language, my principal helped to bring the family and me closer together.

     

    Create a Welcoming Space: Beyond just back-to-school night and parent-teacher conferences, I think it’s important to invite families into the classroom so they too can share in the learning. I extend an open invitation to my students’ families. Families are always welcome to schedule a visit or to volunteer to either read to the class or to help teach a special lesson. I also invite families to our gallery walks and learning shares at the end of major units.

    Since it’s difficult for some families to visit during the school day, we also welcome families to events before and after school. This year we plan to expand our popular math nights for families. During math nights, we teach strategies and thinking routines that can be used at home to support students.    

    For additional tips for working with your students’ families, visit these blogs posts:

    I wish all teachers, students, and families a successful new school year full of exciting learning!

     

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