Building Your Support Team: Parents
Free excerpt from Becoming a Win-Win Teacher by Dr. Jane Bluestein (Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Publishing, 2010), from chapter 9: “Build Your Support Team.” This chapter also includes information on the value of collaboration, finding an effective mentor, and building supportive relationships with mentors, colleagues, administrators and central office personnel, specialists, classified staff, and substitutes.
There’s one other important piece of the support-team puzzle, and interestingly, this group—the students’ parents—seems to be most challenging for many teachers.1 A 2005 article by Nancy Gibbs quoted a recent study that found that “of all the challenges they face, new teachers rank handling parents at the top… Parent management was a bigger struggle than finding enough funding or maintaining discipline or enduring the toils of testing… Even master teachers who love their work call this ‘the most treacherous part of their jobs.’”2 She also noted that while nearly all new teacher agreed that parent involvement was a priority at their school, “only 25% described their experience working with parents as ‘very satisfying.’”3
Aili Pogust related a story about a parent “who was actually banned from school property because she created such a turmoil in the school community. I truly understood,” she wrote. “I’ve experienced parents hovering unannounced at my door early in the morning waiting to dump their issues. It was harassment, plain and simple. What a horrible way to begin the day, as that encounter sits with you.” Although I would agree with elementary teacher Sherri Leeper, who urged new teachers to “try to let negative comments or reactions from parents roll off your back,” I know from personal experience how hard it can be to keep a negative encounter with a parent from spoiling your mood, your day, or even your relationship with a student.
A professional development director observed, “This is the biggest hole in teacher prep courses. Parents are more and more educated and more and more involved, and we don’t help new teachers learn how to talk to them. How do you handle the helicopter parent, how do you handle the ones who want to sit with their kids all day long, who want their kids in gifted or advanced placement classes? This is a public relations issue and new teachers are not prepared.” (I would add that we are no better prepared for parents who are not particularly well educated, or those of any background whose default relationship with the school is one of mistrust.)
Certainly the topic of dealing with parents came up over and over in contributors’ comments, particularly with regard to feeling unprepared for what they encountered when they started working with young people. “I wish someone had told me that I wouldn’t get the parental support I thought I’d get,” wrote Linda Keegan. “A lot of criticism from parents was unexpected.” A veteran third-grade teacher noted, “I would have liked more training in good ways to deal with parents of varying degrees of involvement, from those you never meet to overbearing parents who think they can waste forty-five minutes of your time over something as silly as the student’s lunch, or who try to control how you do things in the classroom.” And several administrators weighed in as well, listing “handling and communicating with difficult parents” among the top areas in which beginning teachers are the least prepared and need the most help.
Like it or not, parents are a dominant part of the lives of your students, and they are invariably going to be a part of your professional life as well. Your interactions with parents are as implicit a part of your job as are presenting a lesson, evaluating students’ progress, or taking attendance. How you approach your students’ parents will influence their attitudes toward and involvement with you, your class, and the school, but be aware that many parents harbor strong feelings that developed long before you walked into the building that, at least for starters, have nothing to do with you personally. “Most of our parents went to this school and a lot of them had bad experiences here,” one middle school principal shared. “They don’t think the teachers understand the kids or their families, or they think that we look down on them. So if you see parents here, they’ve usually got a pretty big chip on their shoulder.”4
It’s not always easy to make decisions that are right for a student when you can anticipate resistance—or worse—from the parents. DeGennaro acknowledged that “sometimes you have to tell a child or a parent a truth they don’t want to hear. Sometimes you have to make parents angry and hostile before you can move them, and their child, to a better place. Knowing when to fight the difficult battles is important,” and, she maintained, standing your ground for whatever is truly in the best interest of the student never gets any easier. “It is only palatable when after some time, you hear, ‘Thank you for helping me see what was best for my child when I couldn’t.’ That makes is all worth it. You know then that you are a professional and that you have won the respect of your constituents by applying the pedagogy of good teaching even when it isn’t popular.”
Even if everything is going well, you may be surprised by what Gibbs describes as suspicions born of class and race and personal experience.”5 One of my earliest experiences with a parent brought about a completely unexpected reaction. I had called home to report that the student had had a big breakthrough in math and was doing really well. I thought the parent would be happy to hear about her son’s progress, so imagine my surprise when she replied, “Yeah? What do you want?” She simply stopped hearing me once she realized it was a teacher calling about her son.
We don’t have to look far to explain this defensiveness. Too often, interactions with parents are limited to brief hellos on Open House night or requests for their signatures on report cards (and the older the student is, the scarcer the parents—and parent involvement programs—tend to be.6) How often do parents and teachers silently coexist, knowing one will hear from the other as soon as something is wrong? For parents who are only contacted by someone at school when there is a problem, it’s understandable that it might never occur to them that a teacher would be calling to share something positive. Certainly, this was a first for the many of the parents I called or contacted with good reports. And, not surprisingly, parents are likely to be defensive if they feel that the teacher is talking down to them or criticizing their parenting, or if the teacher tries to come across as caring more about the child than the parents themselves.
From the parents’ perspective, I want to suggest another obstacle, and it’s one that is fairly common in teachers’ communications with parents. I’m talking about the tendency to report a problem with the expectation that it is up to the parent to correct the situation. Now we certainly want to keep parents informed, especially in the case of an incident involving their child, or if we see a pattern emerging that could have a negative impact on the student’s grades, promotion, or graduation. (Few parents appreciate learning about an ongoing problem only after report cards come out, when some significant intervention becomes necessary, or when failure or expulsion, for example, is imminent. These “surprises” reflect a significant failure of communication and lack of professionalism on our part as educators, and it’s something you never want to have to explain.) But contacting parents to keep them in the loop is quite different from calling in the hopes that the parent will motivate, much less punish the child, or otherwise fix the problem.7 You are more likely to build positive relationships with parents when you do not depend on them to keep order in your class, engage their children in your instruction, get their children’s homework in on time, or otherwise do their children’s jobs—or yours. “Good schooling must come before parental support,” admonished columnist Jay Matthews, “not the other way around.”8
Teachers who would characterize the majority of their encounters with parents in negative terms—from indifferent to hostile—may try to avoid dealing with parents at all. But there are some very good reasons to take the exact opposite approach, actively building relationships with parents at all grade levels and encouraging their involvement in their children’s learning and in their participation in the school as well. “Parents can be a really big help to you as a teacher,” wrote one elementary teacher. Indeed, I often gained insights about what motivated students or what had worked (or had been problems) for other teachers from conversations with their parents. Research strongly supports parental involvement as well, pointing to benefits that include fewer behavioral problems, better academic performance (higher grades and test scores), higher graduation rates, better school attendance, increased motivation, lower rates of suspension, decreased use of drugs and alcohol, and fewer instances of violent behavior when compared to schools with low rates of parent involvement.9 Even if you’re working with kids whose parents have typically avoided contact with the school, or students whose parents have a history of antagonistic relationships with their kids’ teachers, there are things you can do to turn these traditions around.10
Think about what parents want. In general, if parents see their children coming home excited about what they’re doing in school, if they see their children being successfully challenged and making progress, if they perceive that their children are safe (physically, emotionally, socially, and academically), and perhaps most important, if they believe that you genuinely care about their children, the parents are far less likely to meddle, complain, or dispute your recommendations. Once again, we see the benefits of win-win objectives. “When children succeed, their gratified families will be with them all the way,” concluded Matthews.11 In other words, parents win when kids win, and by extension, teachers win as well.
Let’s start with the belief that parents have a right to be informed on a regular basis of their children’s progress, performance, achievement, and behavior in school, and that they have a right to inquire about the instruction and accommodations provided for their children. Granted, some parents will be less involved than others, but even in the case of parents you never hear from or see, assume that with few exceptions, parents are very much interested in their children’s school lives and generally hold academically high aspirations for them. This statement holds true for parents of all social and economic levels, including parents of children often identified as educationally disadvantaged.12 Michelle Mayrose cautioned against assuming that students from low-income families don’t care or that their parents don’t care. “Often they have the basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing to worry about. Parents often are unsure how to help their kids with school and intimidated to come into the school for a variety of reasons.”
The Community: A Hands-On Approach
Many contributors suggested that new teachers, including teachers new to a school or district, get to know the community. This is especially important if your upbringing and experience are culturally and economically different from that of your students, or if you work in an unfamiliar area that is culturally and economically diverse. Some teacher preparation organizations recognize that it is not fair to simply train teachers in “how to teach a certain subject and then send them out,” as teacher educator Alberto Bursztyn related. “Teachers have to understand the community in which they will be working.”13 Wayne Reed, a colleague of Bursztyn, noted that several of the courses in their program “now include community-based assignments—that is, assignments that help students in the School of Education develop their community knowledge,” including one program designed “to help teachers develop their practice in the context of the social and cultural framework of the neighborhood they serve.”14 But not all teachers obtain positions in the area in or near where they trained, and you may find yourself in a very different neighborhood than where you did your preservice work. Mayrose suggested getting a map of your district and taking a driving tour of the area within your school’s zoning boundaries. She described how seeing some of her students’ homes and neighborhoods “was a very eye-opening experience.” Whenever practical, seeing where your students live, or where their parents work or shop, can give you a much better sense of the community.15
Home visits, when they were possible, gave me a much broader sense of the students with whom I was working and helped me connect with parents in surroundings that were familiar and comfortable for them. Many parents appreciate the time and effort that goes into home visitations, and may actually feel more comfortable talking to teachers or asking questions in meetings on their own turf. However you may encounter some parents who feel that home visits are intrusive and patronizing. While home visits can help build communication, trust, and parent involvement, going to a child’s home requires a great deal of openness and sensitivity. Be aware that whatever your background, you are certain to have students who come from what you might consider non-traditional family arrangements, or cultural or religious traditions or standards of living that are different from those most familiar to you.
I’ve known teachers who clearly resented the fact that some of their students had bigger allowances than they did, or that their students were provided with housing or health care. These feelings are hard to hide. Parent involvement starts with an enormous amount of trust, acceptance, and respect. And while you may encounter parents who come to you with those feelings, assume that the relationships begins with what you bring to the equation. If there is any chance that you might be perceived as judgmental, condescending, or shocked (whether or not you actually are), or if a home visit could increase tension between you and the parents (or you and the student), please look at other options, including the possibility of meeting on more neutral territory like a neighborhood coffee shop, eatery, or park, for example.16
Talk to veterans about their experiences and ask the office for any policies or programs already in place. Some schools and districts require home visits early in the school year, especially in the primary grades, and some even offer a stipend for the time teachers invest in this practice. However others discourage home visitations because of safety or liability issues, or reserve the practice for social workers, school resource officers, or home-school liaisons. If you visit a student’s home, arrange the time well in advance. Schedule your visit during school or daylight hours, and, if possible plan to go with another person, such as a team teacher, the counselor, a translator, or a paraprofessional. Let the school know where you are going and when you expect to return. Have your school identification with you, although not necessarily immediately visible. (These considerations would also apply to a driving tour of some neighborhoods.)
Connecting with Parents
More commonly, face-to-face contact will occur at school, either on an Open House, scheduled conference, or a drop-in visit by the parent.17 There are clear advantages to meeting parents in your classroom, as you have access to records and work samples, and can share things you are doing in your room. Many parents enjoy having a visual context for what their children talk about at home although some feel a little overwhelmed, if not a bit intimidated, meeting teachers in school. (You can help avoid unequal power implications by sitting with the parents side-by-side, at a table or in same-sized chairs or desks, rather across from them at your desk.) Try to meet as many parents as possible before any problems come up, either at the very start of the school year or in a meeting designed around a general discussion of the curriculum for your class or grade level, as well as any strengths or interests you’ve noticed in their children. “Start on a positive note,” advised author Alain Jehlen, who quotes Jerry Newberry, the head of the NEA Health Information Network, as stating, “Many parents come to a conference highly defensive. Year after year, for 12 or 24 conferences, maybe all they’ve heard has been bad news. You have to be different: ‘I’m here to help your child be successful.”18 Ruthann Young-Cookson agreed. “Always have something positive to say about their child. Never end a conversation with parents on a negative note.”
If you want to build a foundation of trust, openness, and support with parents, probably the most effective strategy involves regular, positive contact—and this goes for every child, not just the good ones. (If you’re working with multiple classes, start with the most challenging.) There are many ways to connect with parents, including electronic options that did not exist until relatively recently. Between or before face-to-face meetings, you can get a lot of mileage with phone calls, emails, notes, or reports. Even teachers with large or multiple classes have found efficient ways to maintain contact with families on a regular basis through these avenues. I was amazed at the impact a simple “good note” could have, even with my older middle school kids, and when I started sending weekly reports, I finally had the sense, with the majority of the families, that we were in an actual partnership on behalf of their children’s education.19 Simply too much happens between report card periods to allow parent-teacher contacts to depend entirely on quarterly grades. Even a little effort can go a long way, and it really did not take much to turn around the caution and tentativeness I first experienced.
Use different strategies for different types of information. Newsletters—hard copies or online versions if the majority of your families have computers and internet access—are great for sharing information about activities, projects, events, topics, or units involving your students. It’s also a great place for offering resources, ideas, and links the family can use to enhance the child’s learning, or to build parenting skills. One second grade teacher shared, “I started writing a newsletter every week for the parents to keep them informed. This made them happy when they knew what their kids were doing and it kept them off my back.” If your school has a Web site, find out how you can create your own pages to display students’ work, reports about what your classes are doing, important dates and upcoming events, or helpful links for parents.20 Parent involvement tends to improve with contact and quality information. Additionally, your visibility and involvement at school activities that parents attend can up your approval rating, whether they see you at plays, games, concerts, or parent-teacher organization meetings.
For more personal and student-specific feedback, consider phone contact, emails, text messages, or brief handwritten notes. Young-Cookson suggested phoning parents in the first few days of school to establish a positive rapport. And while this practice may be less common in the upper grades, many contributors working with older students found these contacts worthwhile. “Communication with home, I feel, is number one to a student doing well in the class,” wrote one high school English teacher who sees early contact as a way to create win-win situations with parents. “I suggest new teachers connect with the home within the first two weeks. I call them all and send a positive note within that time frame,” she wrote. “They love to hear good things about their child in beginning of school.” (Phone conferences can also help avert blow-ups if some conflict occurs between you and a student or between a student and a classmate. Getting your version to the parent before the child does can often prevent serious miscommunications or the anxiety of a parent wondering why “the teacher never called me about that?”)
Regardless of how you make contact, you really don’t want your first communication or encounter to be about a problem concerning their child. Keep in mind the primary goal of building positive involvement and support, which develops through the relationships you create, connecting so you can work together in the best interests of the child. Think about the kinds of things that make people feel welcome and safe when they’re meeting with someone in authority—and yes, you are an authority in their child’s life. You want to exhibit the confidence that will invite parents to respect this authority, along with the caring, openness, and capability to confirm that their faith in you is well placed. This is especially important when dealing with angry parents, or those whose experiences with their children’s teachers have been less than optimal. White, et al, recommended, “Your body language needs to demonstrate that you are professional, confident, and willing to listen but intolerant of abuse.”21 In other words, as Sandy Goldman advised, “Try to act like you aren’t a first year teacher with the parents.”
Decide ahead of time on the boundaries you’ll need—not only to take care of yourself at home and respect the needs of the people who live with you, but to present the kind of voice, tone, and energy you’ll want to recruit any time you communicate with a parent. I’ve known teachers who had separate email accounts or cell phones exclusively for school use (which they only checked or answered during specific times), and others who considered themselves on call day and night. Some teachers feel quite comfortable giving out their private contact information. Nonetheless, Wyatt and White cautioned, “In a world where technology makes everyone more vulnerable, you may want to consider making calls to parents from school telephones rather than your cell or land line.”22 If you suspect harassment, or think you’ll sound inconvenienced or annoyed getting a call from a parent during off hours, screen your calls and if necessary, pull the plug. You are entitled to some recharge time and the occasional distance from work, and parents are entitled to be heard—at a time that works for you. Unless your school has a policy insisting that you take a call from any parent at any time, if you’re not in a space where you can be a respectful and receptive listener, let the call go to voice mail. Finally, you might not want to take potentially upsetting calls right before dinner or bed, or if you won’t be able to resolve the problem until you get back to school after the weekend.
Once again, this is where doing your homework can really pay off. The time you invest in regularly connecting with parents before there is a problem will give you a foundation of support and understanding that will very likely generate respect for your time, including your time away from school. These proactive efforts will perhaps pay the greatest benefits when you need to contact parents about an incident involving their children or negative pattern or behavior you observe. Cookson noted that prior communications to touch base and share information tend to make parents more receptive if you ever need to call on problematic behaviors or poor academic performance. “Never wait until a problem arises to make first contact,” she reminded.
Here, too, a paper trail will help. Any time you do need to discuss a problem, the better you can document whatever is going on, the more support you’re likely to receive for decisions and recommendations you make (and the better protected you are in case the parent is not as receptive as you might like). “Document everything,” wrote one elementary teacher. “Parents need to know if something is happening in the classroom, whether good or bad so that they aren’t shocked when a report card comes home with a failing grade or a negative comment about behavior or any skill. Documentation also covers your butt if something were to happen, or if questions are raised.” Jehlen likewise commented, “The solution is concrete evidence.”23
Also document your contacts with parents, including attempted contacts, missed meetings or no-shows, and any follow-up efforts you’ve made. Date each record, whether written or recorded, and note the type of the contact (for example, phone call, home visit, note, scheduled conference, or drop-in), who initiated the contact, and the purpose of the contact. Keep copies of letters or notes sent home, as well as emails sent and received. Include detailed notes or recordings from meetings, descriptions of incidents, plans for follow up, or outcomes of contacts. You’ll rarely ever regret keeping good records, but you are likely to wish you had if you don’t.
In face-to-face meetings, pay attention to subtle non-verbal cues you may be broadcasting. White, Harvey, and Kemper recommend a open, pleasant, and relaxed facial expression. “Make steady eye contact with those who are speaking, even if they are assaulting you. Looking down, to the side, or over their heads suggests that you are guilty, disinterested or arrogant. People read frowns as disagreement or disapproval.”24 As much as possible, mirror their body posture during this process.
Teachers who have successfully navigated encounters with angry parents recommend giving them a chance to vent. When they slow down, ask them what else is bothering them, they suggested. Try to exhaust their list of complaints. One high school teacher with prior experience in customer service learned to resist the urge to interrupt. “If you cut somebody off in the middle of a rant, they just start over again,” she said. (This applies to students, as well, she noted.) White and friends concurred. “Resist the temptation to argue with the speakers or to return the attack with one of your own. Let them vent even if it becomes redundant,” they suggested.
Additionally, consider the value of validating the parents’ feelings, even if their concerns are not accurate or reasonable. Countering with a genuinely compassionate and reassuring response (for example, “I can understand your concern,” “That’s quite disconcerting,” or “I can see how that would have upset you.”) not only relays your concern for them and your respect for their feelings, but can also defuse some of the stress and upset that may have been festering for a while. White and friends suggested that you “listen and respond briefly to correct any misinformation when they are finished. At the end, share your next steps to consider their concerns.”25
Many contributors mentioned taking notes during conferences, even if you use a voice or video recorder. “Taking notes during the speeches can help you to get through the attacks, stay more objective, and have a record of ideas to follow up on after the meeting,” wrote White et al. “It also lets them know that you are taking their ideas seriously.”26 You may want to include another colleague to mediate or help you stay objective, particularly if the parent does not seem to calm down, or if you feel threatened in any way.
Tune in to your own emotional state. Avoid the temptation to argue, become defensive, or raise your voice. “Don’t talk to a parent—or write—when you’re mad,” wrote Alain Jehlen, also citing high school English teacher Linda Robb, who advised, “Never ever reply immediately to an angry email… Wait. Do not delay more than 24 hours, but give it time. And then call them instead of writing an answer.”27
A couple other courtesies to consider: Whenever possible, avoid contacting parents at work, during dinner hours, or after nine o’clock unless you’ve been advised beforehand that doing so will not be invasive or disruptive. Keep conversations short, professional, and to the point. Avoid discussing other teachers, students, or families, unrelated incidents, or details of your personal life. Likewise, be careful about bringing up your feelings about school policies or expressing personal opinions on other hot-button topics. Be on time for meetings and return calls promptly. And be sure to follow up on any promises you make at the time of your meeting or conversation.
In any conversation with parents, maintain your professionalism. “Remember, no matter how friendly you become with parents, they are not your friends,” advised Goldman. “You need to remain professional yet friendly with them.” Even if discussing a problem or conflict, do your best to keep it positive, emphasizing the child’s strengths, skills, and interests, and your commitment to a mutually supportive effort to enhance the child’s development and growth. And be prepared for the fact that even parents who are familiar with the concept of win-win in a business context may not think to apply the same thinking when it comes to their children. Instructional support teacher Jamie Kunkle noted that “you have to educate the parents as well as the children,” and has found that “parent education is much more difficult.” However, simply coming to the table with the intention to work toward win-win solutions in the best interest of the child can eventually break through a great deal of all-or-nothing thinking, as well as a parent’s need to be right, affix blame, or win at someone else’s expense.
Assume that the parents want to trust you, and that they all want their children to have successful and enjoyable experiences with you. Julia Frascona commented, “You are some parents’ only hope.” She advised looking parents in the eye and reassuring them, offering stories or comments about their children “that show you know and care about them.” While you never want to promise something you can’t or won’t deliver, commit to reasonable, win-win solutions and do your best to end every contact on a positive note.
1 I use the term “parent” to refer to parents, step-parents, grandparents, or any other primary caregivers.
2 Nancy Gibbs, “Parents Behaving Badly,” Time (February 21, 2005): 42.
3 Nancy Gibbs, “Parents Behaving Badly,” Time (February 21, 2005): 44.
4 When I started at my last classroom position, I was hired to take over for a beloved institution of a teacher who retired right before Thanksgiving break. Starting in the middle of a semester is never easy, and in this case, I had some pretty big shoes to fill. I spent the entire year fighting comparisons to the teacher who had left and trying to win over parents who frankly resented the fact that this woman had been replaced. New teachers will always have to make their bones, but if you find yourself in a similar situation, it may take a little more time, faith, work, and excellence to be accepted by staff and community.
5 Nancy Gibbs, “Parents Behaving Badly,” Time (February 21, 2005): 43.
6 “Parent Involvement in Schools,” Available on Child Trends Data Base Web site: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/pdf/39_PDF.pdf; also “What Research Says about Parent Involvement In Children’s Education in Relation to Academic Achievement,” Available: Michigan Department of Education Web site: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/Final_Parent_Involvement_Fact_
Sheet_14732_7.pdf which claims: “School activities to develop and maintain partnerships with families decline with each grade level, and drop dramatically at the transition to middle grades.” Additionally, Wyatt and White note that “high school teachers complain that the evening is a waste of time: only a handful of parents attend, and these are the parents of the students who already perform at high levels.” (Wyatt and White, 119).
7 If we value the idea of teaching students responsibility, it will never be appropriate to call a parent with this expectation. The frequency with which this pattern occurs in home-school relationships probably accounts for much of the antagonism both parents and teachers report. You can make your intentions clear by stating up front that you don’t need or expect the parent to do or say anything, that you’re only calling to keep the parent up to date. Then you can ask for any ideas that have worked in the past and share how you are handling or planning to handle the issue. Offer to follow up in a day or two.
8 Jay Matthews, “Teach the Kids, and the Parents will Follow.” Washington Post, March 29, 2009. Available: The Washington Post Web site: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/27/AR2009032700958.html
9 “Parent Involvement in Schools;” also “What Research Says about Parent Involvement In Children’s Education in Relation to Academic Achievement.”
10 Research also points to three major factors in parental involvement in the education of their children, including the parents’ beliefs about what is important, necessary, and permissible for them to do with and on behalf of their children; the extent to which they believe that they can positively impact their children’s education; and their perceptions that their children and school want them to be involved. (“What Research Says about Parent Involvement In Children’s Education in Relation to Academic Achievement.”) These are factors you can influence through the attitudes, information, and invitations you offer in your interactions with parents.
12 David W. Champagne and Richard M. Goldman. Teaching Parents Teaching (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1972). The term “educationally disadvantaged” typically refers to factors such as low family income or growing up in neighborhoods with low graduation rates. Scoring below the 40th percentile is also included in some definitions, as well as any factors that might contribute to children struggling in school or being less likely to achieve than children without similar disadvantages. Although a broad definition (which I would favor) would include children whose learning style or modality profiles do not fit traditional teaching methods, the term typically reflects an economic emphasis.
13 Quoted in Jamilah Evelyn, “Creating a New Kind of Teacher,” Brooklyn College Magazine (Fall 2007): 22-25.
14 Quoted in Jamilah Evelyn, “Creating a New Kind of Teacher,” Brooklyn College Magazine (Fall 2007): 22-25.
15 I once worked with teachers in a district that had five schools spread out across 180 miles from one end to another, and have been in others that required students to commute close to two hours each way, so taking a driving tour of your students’ neighborhoods could, in some situations, clearly present special challenges. As with any of the suggestions in this book, try the ones that are feasible in terms of your placement, resources, and personality.
16 Jane Bluestein, Being a Successful Teacher (Torrance, CA: Fearon Teaching Aids, 1989); also Ryan Francis, “Home-Grown Students: Program Bridges Gap Between School and Home.” (June 14, 2000) Available: Education World Web site: http://www.educationworld.com/a_admin/admin/admin174.shtml; also “Teacher Home Visits.” Discussion Topics (July 2009). Available: the National Education Association Web site: https://public-groups.nea.org/discussion/topic/show/207725?ssot=1; also input from colleagues and contributors.
17 Several contributors mentioned the benefits of encouraging parent visits and setting up opportunities for parents who have the availability and inclination to volunteer as helpers in the classroom. (Goldman, however, suggested that the parents help outside of the classroom to avoid any misunderstanding or misinterpretation of your behavior, which will be scrutinized when parents observe you working with children.) Again, check with your school about existing programs and policies.
18 Alain Jehlen, “How Can You Deal With Angry Parents?” NEA Today (Feb. 2008): 30.
19 These notes included a simple checklist of four or five behaviors I wanted the students to exhibit, behaviors that would improve the climate of the classroom and their performance in school. Items varied by class and grade level, and changed as students mastered individual skills. Each behavior was stated positively, with the majority identifying skills most of the students exhibited most of the time: “Comes to class prepared.” “Completes assignments.” “Says ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’” My goal was to send notes home every week with as many skills checked off as possible. These notes only took a few minutes to complete, but they had a surprisingly positive impact on the kids’ behavior, and always seemed to get back to the parents. I generally did not require that parents sign these notes, yet many came back with the parent’s notes of appreciation for my time and care.
20 Consider your district’s privacy restrictions before displaying work with students’ names, and be sure that all students have a chance to see their work included at various times. If your school does not have a site, or has a site that is not set up to enable individual teachers to create pages, talk to someone at your district about restrictions and requirements for setting up your own site (including privacy, security, restricted access). Encourage your students to create content, but screen anything that would be included and do the upload yourself once you’ve vetted with what they have created.
21 White, et al., 17.
22 Wyatt and White, 119.
23 Alain Jehlen, “How Can You Deal With Angry Parents?” NEA Today (Feb. 2008): 30.
24 White, et al., 17.
25 White, et al., 17.
26 White, et al., 17.
27 Alain Jehlen, “How Can You Deal With Angry Parents?” NEA Today (Feb. 2008): 30.
Excerpt from Becoming a Win-Win Teacher, by Dr. Jane Bluestein, © 2010, Corwin Publishing, Thousand Oaks, CA. Please note that this excerpt and the footnotes were taken directly from the final manuscript and may be slightly different from the way the material appears in the book.
Related link: Dealing Successfully with Your Students’ Parents
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