Back-to-school night, Open House, & Meet The Teacher are all the same for the first face-to-face encounter with your students' families.
Making a caring connection and first impression is paramount to future communication.
When you establish the right relationships & connections, everything else follows.
I'll never forget having to discuss complicated topics with families that made them cry. The truth was hard for them to swallow about the services their child needed. However, because we built a strong, caring relationship rooted in open communication & love, having hard conversations was easier. Creating connections with families is essential. They are your number one advocate and partner in their child's education.
The following are some ways I've created life-changing connections with families.
Get ready for Open House, Back-to-school Night, & Meet the Teacher with these tried and true tips.
10 Ways to Cultivate Caring Connections with Your Students' Families
1. Smile & Be Sincere (Always)
Ask for their input. Families know their children best. Ask family members what you can do to meet their child's needs. Let them brag to you about your child and share what their child needs to learn best.
2. Hopes & Dreams Chart
Students' interests lead to learning. For example, at the beginning of each year, we have a chart titled: My Hopes and Dreams For First Grade. Students and families add Post-it notes to the chart sharing what they want to learn and gain from the first grade. I make it happen. At the end of the year, we revisit the chart and discuss how each hope and dream came true. Any grade level or leader can use a My Hopes and Dreams chart. I even use it with each grade level I teach as a STEM teacher.
3. Meet the Teacher Flier
I use a template that focuses more on who I am and less on my education and what I've done. I've found that families enjoy knowing more about who I am than my credentials. Look at this post from We Are Teachers for some great ideas.
4. Clear & Consistent Communication System
Our school district primarily uses the Remind app. However, I like the Bloomz app. No matter what you use, be clear, kind, and consistent. Families loved getting pictures of their children engaged in learning. I also created a class postcard that had preprinted praise for being a GREAT citizen. GREAT stands for the following: G- Growth, R-Respect, E-Empathy, A-Accountable, & T- Trustworthy. When students demonstrate those traits, I write their names on the postcard explaining which letter I saw demonstrated. Then, they proudly present the postcards to their families.
In addition, to a communication app, I send home hard copies of communication to ensure equal access to all families. And, of course, I have any communication translated if it applies to my class demographics.
5. Listen. Extend Empathy.
6. Apologize when you make a mistake. A sincere apology diffuses an angry family member. (This one may not be applicable on back-to-school nights, but it is one hundred percent appropriate at all times.)
7. Be a Problem Solver & Meet Their Needs
8. Provide Resources
9. Value Their Time
Start and stop on time for all events and encounters. Leave space for families to ask questions.
10. Set Up Stations
Stations are an excellent way to engage families in activities their child does throughout the day in your class. Set up a sampling, so families see the wonderful ways kids in your class learn.
One station I always set up is enlisting volunteers. I also verbally ask for volunteers. I want to partner with families. I want them in my room, so they become an ally. I enlist their expertise to share with the class. It's beautiful when family members in different trades and professions teach your students. They expose your students to skills you may not have, and their child feels special when they come to volunteer in your room.
Create strong relationships with families. Partnerships with families are crucial to student success.
Whether it's back-to-school night, open house, or meet the teacher night, instilling some primary connection and communication ingredients makes a recipe for all future success with families. When families and teachers partner, student engagement and achievement go up. Everybody wins.
YOU make a difference!
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