Teachers are finding parent interactions increasingly difficult: from the helicopter moms who are in the classroom every day for an update to the ghost parents who are completely disconnected. These all or nothing relationships may have a major impact on the behaviour and performance of a child at school and wider implications in the classroom and beyond.
Issues that can arise as a result of poor parent-teacher relationships include:
- A lack of support from parents in upholding school standards and rules.
- A lack of respect from students who have heard parents undermine the school in conversation.
- Challenging student behaviour and classroom disruptions.
- Teachers feeling undermined and unappreciated.
- Students not being equipped with the necessary tools and equipment.
When school and parents find themselves in an “us” versus “them” battle, it’s the child that loses. But there has been an escalation in the number of teachers complaining that they find parents are removing responsibility for their child’s negative behaviour from the child or themselves and placing it at the door of the school. So how can we work with parents to win their support and improve levels of student accountability.
The solution lies in improved parent-teacher communication! And this can only come from improved school-parent communication: Setting the right tone for interactions between the school and parents from the beginning. From the very first time a prospective parent makes contact with your school, they should understand your school’s mission and values and how these translate into your day to day activities. When parents are choosing a school, you need to let them know just what they can expect from their experience at your school.
They should appreciate that they are entering a community of like-minded individuals who place a great deal of value on receiving a high quality education in the manner in which your school delivers it. They should understand that they and other parents have chosen your school because of its very specific goals and values, which are hopefully in line with their own; that they are joining a community that has an affiliation that goes beyond the 6 years at school, one that previous generations of students have been through successfully and return to whenever they can to share their success.
They must trust that you have your own unique approach to education, one that you have refined over decades of teaching and continue to update on a regular basis, with the aim of producing graduates with recognised academic qualifications built on a broad grounding in a range of academic subjects that you have chosen to specialise in to enable them to problem solve and converse confidently where ever they find themselves later in life. That the subjects on offer present students with a wide range of opportunities for further education and employment beyond and that it is the whole package of subjects you teach that provides these opportunities. They should therefore encourage their child to make every effort in all subjects. They must trust in your recruitment and continuous development practices that enable you to attract and retain qualified staff to teach, coach and care for their child
Define how you value physical activity, sports and culture and the enormous benefits these bring and how you expect your students and their parents to take an active part in these activities; to respect the focus, dedication and discipline that is derived from these activities, and to value the opportunities to learn from victories and defeat and to work with others. Explain your aim to foster in each student a desire and a commitment to achieve excellence in practice and in performance.
Outline your value of discipline, and above all self-discipline. There are rules at your school for a reason: to allow for the safety of everyone, free from bullying or harassment, and these rules apply to everyone and are applied equally!
Explain your school funding program and how it relies on its fees, levies and fundraising to provide the facilities and teachers to deliver a well-rounded education, and that without these activities, and parents’ cooperation and participation, none of this would be possible.
If prospective parents share these values then ensure that they also understand the commitment they are making when joining your school facility by having them sign a Parent Charter. In doing so they are agreeing to:
- Supporting their child’s learning through the timely payment of fees and fundraising activities;
- Supporting their child’s learning by providing them with the necessary tools and equipment, , as prescribed by the school, both in class and on the sports field;
- Supporting their child’s learning through active participation in school consultations and open and ongoing communication with the teachers,
- Supporting their child’s development through active participation in social events;
- Supporting their child’s participation in sporting events by displaying good sportsmanship;
- Supporting the school and its staff in upholding the school rules;
- Supporting the school and their child’s learning by carrying out the necessary adjustments to their school, home and social environment when you identify that things may not be working.
By putting all of this into a Parent Charter for parents to sign, you have laid the ground rules for your relationship with them and parents will understand that you need and value their support, and just how they can give it.
This is just one of the many tools you can adopt in your communication strategy to help provide clarity, build trust and construct better relationships. For more on
Designing an Effective Communication Strategy for your School
Sophia offers a course examining how you can align your communications with your mission and values to ensure that your many different audiences are receiving timely and targeted information to give everyone the information they need to be successful.
Writer: Samantha Webster
LinkedIn / Samantha Webster