3 Tips for Building Positive Relationships with Students' Families

Teachers often complain that one of the hardest things about teaching is dealing with parents. Although I've definitely had my struggles with families, working with parents is still one of my favorite parts of the job! As I've grown as a teacher, I've found a few things that have helped me to grow a bond and make a relationship with all of my students' families.

1. Communicate!
This might sound silly and like common sense, but if your kiddos are nonverbal like mine, then you need to step up your communication game with parents even more! Think about it, if your students aren't going home and telling their parents what they did that day, then how are the parents supposed to know all the awesome things you're doing in your classroom?! I know it sounds daunting, but I think that if you teach in a center-based (or self-contained) classroom, then you should have communication with parents daily. You don't have to call or email parents everyday, but a simple note like "Billly had a good day," "Jim didn't eat much today" or a smiley face sticker in a notebook will go a long way in making families feel like part of the team. I use little student planners I find at the Dollar Tree every year to write notes to families everyday.

2. Share the GLOWS!
Have you ever heard someone say, "For every bad thing you tell parents, tell them 3 positives"? Well I totally agree with this! I know we all have "that one kid" who is constantly getting bad calls or notes home, but we have to make sure that parents still know that there are good things about their students. Do your best to share glows and progress (no matter how small it is) with families. If parents see you are excited about things their child is doing, your relationship with the family will definitely grow! Sharing glows and positive stuff going on in your room can be so fun! Try sending parents weekly pictures of students doing fun stuff at school via text or email (my parents LOVE this!!!) or making a weekly/ monthly newsletter about any exciting stuff that has been going on in your room (if your school is always in a paper crisis like mine, you can email it!).

3. Invite families to the classroom
I've talked to a lot of teachers who don't like it when parents are in the classroom when they're teaching because they see it as a distraction to students. My first few years of teaching, I was one of those teachers!! I felt like I was being judged by parents and I thought it was harder to manage the students when parents were in the room. Over the last few years, I've started to change my ways... I started inviting parents into our room to watch lessons and activities and the response from families was great! Parents were so excited to see how much their students were able to do at school! It has been so meaningful for the parents to see me and the classroom staff "in action" with the students and definitely led to parents giving us more respect. I realize it can be hard to get parents to school during the day, but it's worth a try!

Still don't think it's worth it to put the time and effort into relationships with families? Think about this... Every teacher will make mistakes during the school year (sorry, but none of us are perfect!). Whether it's small mistakes like forgetting to send a lunch box or notebook home or a bigger mistake like missing an IEP date, if you don't have a good relationship with families, they're bound to get upset when you make a mistake. If you have a good relationship with families, they're more likely to trust you and be understanding of your mistakes.