Awesome Teachers Make Personal Connections With Student Families (GMTT – #3)

I’m going to be 100% honest here, when I have taught all day, and wrangled children, and dealt with hard coworkers, and barely have had time to use the restroom or eat… the last thing I want to do is call up an unknown parent and shoot the breeze. And I definitely don’t want talk to them about behavior issues. HOWEVER, when I do finally muster up the will power to call up a family, I have never regretted having that social capital. And that social capital is why awesome teachers make personal connections with student families.

What It Does For You

I usually write how to do it first, but for this post, it makes way more sense to say the pros of connections before describing the methods.

  • Capital literally means wealth. Having a social capital means that you have trust with parents that you will need to cash in on later. Teachers need parents: to volunteer, to help with behaviors, to enforce homework, to donate to the class, to support learning, etc. Awesome teachers know how to rally the parent troops!
  • Less confused parents and questions like this.
  • A deeper knowledge of your students’ needs.
  • A greater love and more compassion for your students.
  • Protection from potential confrontations in the future. If you have documented communications with parents, it’s harder for someone to try defamation. (Don’t you hate that we have to talk about that?!)
  • Professional development (often times schools require teachers to reach out now)
  • You’ll have a pulse on which kid or kids are struggling at home.
  • Parents will trust you and rave about you to other parents.

How To Do It

Connecting with families does not always need to be phone calls. It can be emails, notes home, a school night, sometimes a text, or a home visit. Here are the general guidelines I believe need to be used to ensure you gain the social capital that comes with connections:

  1. Put your students on a list and document how often you communicate with families. Pick 2 or 3 families a week so it doesn’t become overwhelming… remember this is supposed to only take 5-10% more effort!
  2. Try to talk with families at least every few months.
  3. Pick a communication method that is sustainable for you as the teacher and is also practical for the situation. As a special education teacher, it rarely made sense to send a note home to make a personal connection with families. I wasn’t in the student’s life as much as the other teachers, and students lost my correspondences a lot.
  4. You (the teacher) need to make sure that the communication is actually reaching the parents. This means you need to ask for response back with notes, have follow up, etc.
  5. If one form of communication is not getting a response from parents, try a different method. I usually try twice before changing it up.
  6. Try least invasive methods first. And when possible, try to schedule a home visit before coming over.
  7. Remember the point is to create a connection. Try to be positive when you reach out!

Here’s some ideas of what to talk about with parents to gain social capital:

  • Make a phone call to parents to introduce yourself and explain classroom routines. Ask if they have questions.
  • Call parents and ask straight forward: What do need me to do to help you have a successful year?
  • Create a questionnaire for parents to fill out as a “get to know their child.”
  • Send home a classroom rules and procedures list and have parents sign it.
  • Call with praise about the student. (This is huge. Parents love a call just to brag on their kid!!)
  • Send an email or text on upcoming dates and ask questions.
  • Send a note, email, text asking for feedback on the year so far. I would suggest specific questions here so that you don’t get rude critics. For example: How is our class’s homework load working for your family dynamics?
  • Monthly newsletters home with the student.
  • Social media class pages for parents to follow and interact with.
  • Updating behavior or online grading portals for parents to check. If you say that you’ll have grades posted by Friday, let parents know if you’re going to be late. You will win a lot of credit here!
  • Communicating when there are changes to the routine.

Wrapping It Up

To keep this from getting overwhelming, try to make it in bite size chunks each week. That’s the key here, and that will keep it at a 5-10% amount of effort. You’ve got this! Go connect!

Let me know if you have some difficulties connecting that I didn’t bring up here!

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