Building great home-school relationships right from the start

I once heard a school administrator remind her staff, “Parents don’t send their bad kids to school and keep the good ones home. They send us the best they’ve got.”

Teachers don’t get to handpick our “clientele.” The mix of students will include kids with a variety of skills, personalities, and challenges. The one commonality is that they all come to school from homes and families,* and the support from that side of their lives can vastly improve their progress and achievement and reduce problems you might encounter.

In addition to the material addressing this issue that I currently have on this site (see below), I thought I’d add a quick, back-to-school, Top-Five list of ideas for building positive, mutually-supportive relationships with parents or other primary caregivers.

1. See it from the parents’ perspective

Think about what parents want for their children when they send them off to school. Kids who come home excited about what they’re doing in school, kids who feel safe in school, kids who feel valued and cared about by their teachers—those are the ones whose parents are most likely to be in your corner when you need them. (Think of how you feel about people who are offer your kids love and guidance!)

2. Let parents in on your policies and plans

Let parents know your goals and intentions. Keep it short, simple, and positive. (Please do not send home pages of rules and punishments.) Newsletters or websites that showcase kids’ work or upcoming content or events can help parents stay connected and involved. And please proofread anything the parents are likely to see or read. Best bet: Get a colleague or friend to check for errors.

3. Let parents know about the good stuff their kids are doing

Throughout my career, the biggest complaint I’ve heard from parents is that they only hear from the school when there is a problem. Turn this trend around! Let parents know when the student has had a good day, made a breakthrough in learning, or did something especially positive. Be sure to get to the parents of each student during the semester, if not more often. Regular positive contact can have a huge impact. (If necessary, choose your most challenging class or classes.)

4. Back off on the homework

Give parents some time to spend with their children, and give the kids some time to do something besides more school when they get home. Assign short, meaningful activities to give students a chance to explore or practice a concept—things they can do successfully and independently. Check some of the links at the bottom of this page for more information about making homework work for everyone.

5. Don’t expect parents to do your job

Few parents appreciate being asked to resolve discipline issues teachers have with their students. Keep parents informed if there are problems, and be prepared to take responsibility for their solution— or better yet, prevention. Also, many parents are not equipped to teach the content we are supposed to “get through” during the year. This has increasingly become a problem over the past few years as more content gets squished into the curriculum.

* In some instances, children may come to school from institutions or care homes. Nearly all will have adults in their lives beside the ones they encounter at school.

© 2014, Dr. Jane Bluestein

Related resources

Dealing Successfully with Your Students’ Parents
Parents as Allies (Book excerpt)

Podcast: Increasing Parent Involvement in School

The Win-Win Classroom
Managing 21st Century Classrooms
Listas Para Padres: Qué Hacer Y Qué No
The Parent’s Little Book of Lists: Do’s and Don’ts of Effective Parenting

Video: Gaining Parental Support (YouTube video, starts 1:20)

Article for Parents listed with other article reprints:
I’m Calling Your Mother! Boundary Setting with Your Child’s Teacher

Homework Links:
Is Your Child’s Homework Worth Doing
Synthesis of Research Findings on Homework
Taking a Stand Against Homework
What About Homework?
Is Homework a Headache in Your House?
Homework Rating Scale

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