The best thing about a new school year is the opportunity to improve. It’s like educators get two new starts a year… New Year’s in January and the start of a new school year in August. If you’d like to improve on parent engagement, this is the blog for you. Below are tips on how to build positive relationships with parents.
Meet the Teacher
During this event, principals should be visible. Consider standing at the front door where most parents will enter. Greet them all with a smile and a genuine “hello”. Try to remember your students and address them by name. Ask how their summer was and ask what they are most looking forward to for the school year. During the event, after most people have arrived, walk the building. Again, greet students and their parents as you are walking around.
If you have a parent who has a concern, listen intently. If you cannot quickly solve their concern, write their information down and promise to call them first thing the next morning. The important thing is to make sure you do not allow concerns to take you away from meeting and greeting your other students and parents.
First Day of School
The first day of school is probably the most chaotic day of the school year. Make sure you start early enough on this day to feel ready for the masses. Stand in an area where you can see most of your families as they enter. You may even want to stand outside to greet them before they enter the building. Make sure you have enough support staff stationed throughout the building to help lost students or families. Remember, the key for the first day is to be welcoming and extremely helpful.
First Month of School
I challenge teachers to call every parent during the beginning of school to make that first call home a positive one. I give the same challenge to administrators. Teachers aren’t the only ones who need to foster positive relationships with parents. As an assistant principal, I called parents of students who had qualified for Popsicles with the AP. We didn’t need permission from the parents for the students to attend, but it was an opportunity for me to have a positive interaction with parents. Being the primary person handling discipline, it was important for me to build positive relationships with our parents.
For the first month of school, the assistant principal can observe students in the hallway, in the cafeteria, and/or during transitions. Jot down names of students who are meeting school expectations and take a few minutes each day to call those students’ parents to brag on the students. Also, if you know you have students who had difficulty meeting expectations the year before, seek them out and look for something good. Find them doing something right, and then take that opportunity to praise them (and call their parents for something positive).
Open House is a great time to give a State of the School address. Keep it short, but this is a great time to update parents on how the school performed the previous year. It is also a great opportunity to share goals for the new year, guarantee what the school will provide for them and their child, and include specific ways you need them to contribute to their child’s education.
When I started doing this at a school where I was a new principal, I heard from parents that they never knew how their school was performing. I learned that no matter how great or how poor we performed, we owed it to parents to let them know. Transparency was extremely important.
How do you build positive relationships with your parents?
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Paula Patterson is a Superintendent of Schools who shares practical points on leadership.