The best way for teachers to kick-start the partnership-building process with families is to conduct a brief one-on-one interview or meeting with the parents or carers of each child in your class. They offer a great opportunity to build rapport with parents while gathering important facts to help you fine tune your teaching to better meet the needs of each child.
Here are some essential tips to help you make these meetings rock.
Share these with your staff as a quick refresher before undertaking these parent meetings:
1. Make the meeting space warm, friendly and welcoming
Prepare your interview space so that the meeting takes on a conversational tone. Meet around a low table with you sitting across from parents. If the meeting is in a classroom then move slightly away from your desk ensuring there is no physical barrier between you and the parents and carers you meet.
2. Go to parents to greet them
First impressions count so greet parents and carers at the door to the meeting space in a warm, friendly manner using a culturally-appropriate greeting. Show them to their chairs, gesturing to sit down and make sure you thank them for coming along and showing such an interest in their child. Remember your non-verbals are on show so make sure you smile, use good posture and keep you hands steady to show you are in control.
3. Keep the tone conversational
Let parents know that the purpose of the meeting is to get to know each other and also to gather information to assist you meet their child’s needs. This meeting is all about ‘their child’ so keep the focus on their child rather than about children in general.
4. Inquire how their child has settled in to the year
Give parents the chance to speak early in the meeting. Inquiring how their child has settled in to the year is a great way to get parents talking as well as provide you with some interesting feedback to guide your teaching.
5. Gather family details
An important function of the first meeting of the year is to help you build up your family knowledge. Essential family details include: an understanding of family circumstances (single parent family, step family etc.); number of siblings, a child’s birth position, preferred contact details and work arrangements. (Full members can find more information about Building Family Knowledge How to lay the groundwork for a productive year ahead workshop in the Helping Teachers section of the Parentingideasschools
6. Establish parent goals for the year
Start your relationship building by listening to parents’ aspirations and concerns. Use good questions to help them articulate their hopes and goals for their child over the coming twelve months. (You’ll find three great questions to help parents articulate their goals and aspirations in the Put out the Welcome Mat handout in the Helping Teachers section of the Parentingideasschools
7. Remind parents of the benefits of working together
Discuss the benefits of both of you working together in the best interests of their child. Don’t assume parents know or understand the research behind educational partnerships. Remind parents of the importance of providing you with early information if there are any learning issues, health problems or changes to the family circumstances.
8. Discuss how you will communicate and establish contact arrangements
Let parents know what to expect in terms of the regular group and individual communications you’ll have throughout the year. This early heads-up hopefully will keep parents on the look out for your regular communications. Be clear about your preferred way of being contacted, including your preferred contact times.
9. Give them something to take home
Create a ‘welcome pack’ for each family that includes an early sample of their child’s work; an easy-to-read handout about how they can help their child learn at home; your preferred contact details and something extra such as a bookmark or hand-written card with a welcome message.
10. Follow up with a thank you phone call or email
Raise the bar in terms of the experience you provide for parents by following up the meeting with a phone call or an individualised email or note thanking them for their attendance. Remind them of some key points such as the importance of letting you know early of any changes to their family circumstances.
The first meeting of the year with parents needs to be short, friendly and focused on them and their children. You may be busting to give parents information about the year ahead but save this for an evening group session to be held sometime after these information-gathering meetings.
For great advice, tips, workshops and courses to help teachers work more effectively with parents go to parentingideasschools.com.au
Alternatively, phone 1800 004 484 during school office hours to find out more.