Savannah, a current Possip reporter and former educator, shares tips on how school leaders can build family-teacher relationships
We know it’s important that teachers prioritize relationships with students to increase student engagement and build trust, which ultimately drives student success. However, there’s a lot that happens outside of the classroom as well, that also contributes to student success. This is especially true for students in middle and high school, who might see as many as seven different teachers in a day. While some student information is of course confidential, school leaders play a powerful role in helping build family-teacher relationships through communication.
As a former high school teacher, I can empathize with the frustration teachers feel when a student is suddenly pulled from their classroom, and no other information is provided beyond the date they are expected to return. I can empathize with the panic that comes from parents when they receive an automated call that their student was reported absent. Especially when this was in fact an error on the teacher’s end as they struggle to get thirty students engaged while counting heads and answering questions simultaneously. While not all information can, or should, be shared with students, school leaders play a pivotal role in deciding what and how information is communicated to families and educators. Therefore, school leaders are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to building family-teacher relationships.
Here are a few ways school leaders can help support family-teacher relationships:
Share Relevant Student Information with Teachers
As previously stated, some student information is personal and confidential. However, information regarding attendance, behavior, and students’ needs should be shared with teachers when possible. When teachers receive phone calls or emails from families about absences or sensitive information without context, this puts teachers and students in difficult situations, and could potentially harm the teacher-student relationship. Or, possibly erode trust between parents and families.
Here is information you might consider sharing:
- If a student is absent for an extended period of time due to disciplinary reasons, family emergencies, or personal needs, communicate to teachers what they should be sending home in regards to homework, and what the expectations are for that student completing their work.
- Send a summarized report to teachers that captures automated phone calls home to parents.
Support Family-Teacher Meetings
Meetings between families and teachers can be difficult to navigate, and sometimes emotionally charged. Support teachers by simply being present during meetings. Be sure to ask teachers beforehand if this would feel helpful. After the meeting, take time to further process with teachers and discuss potential action plans if relevant.
When Teachers Ask For Support, Listen
Requesting further support can often feel vulnerable for teachers. If a teacher at your school requests support, take the time to lean in and listen. Teachers may feel they need support with the following:
- Content knowledge
- Classroom management
- Lesson planning
- Navigating student needs
- Mental health
- Translating or navigating meetings
- Student accommodations
We all value feeling heard and supported. Teachers juggle many responsibilities every day, which can often feel overwhelming. As a former teacher, I witnessed coworkers and teacher friends not receive the support they needed, and unfairly held accountable for situations beyond their control. As a school leader, you can provide the leadership and support teachers need to be successful in their classrooms. This will additionally support teacher retention and promote a positive school climate.
Send Home Positive Family Feedback
Tools like Possip make it easy to capture positive family feedback. Consider anonymously sharing highlighted family comments about specific teachers or grade level teams in your family newsletter. Additionally, consider sending a specific grade level newsletter home to families each quarter. Highlight teacher comments, student projects, and activities! Parents love to know what their students are learning about at all grade levels!
The ability to build family-teacher relationships undeniably contributes to student growth and learning. Support within these relationships from school leaders is beneficial. Additionally, using communication tools like Possip can positively impact students, families, and teachers within your school community. We’re grateful for all of our school partners who want to positively impact their communities!