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Good to Great Parent-Teacher Relationships

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Looking for a great parent-teacher relationship

You’re tense but excited.  You’re prepared but anxious.  You have your notes and are ready to go. Your parent-teacher conference is moments away.   You enter the classroom door, have a big smile on your face,  and there she stands, politely and efficiently welcoming you to a tiny little chair, a tiny little table, and our of her mouth those dreaded few words, he’s just not working to his potential. 

Perhaps, a little over the top and a bit dramatic but we have all been there.  And when completed, your conference was maybe good but certainly not great.  And great is what you were looking for.

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Parent involvement changes everything

When parents are directly involved in their kid’s education, great things happen.  This is based on solid research that every parent needs to know.  Continue reading

A 3-step process for creating a great parent-teacher relationship

Respect, support, and trust (RST) create the foundation for a great parent-teacher relationship that ultimately benefits your kid. Respect exists when both parents and teachers communicate honest information.  Support is when honest feedback is given, and trust results when the feedback received is appreciated.    

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We start with respect

A respectful relationship exists when I am willing to share authentic and sincere information with you and you are willing to share authentic and sincere information with me. This willingness to share information is the first step to creating a mutually shared respectful relationship. 

For Example – Let’s say you meet a friend or colleague for lunch.  You have had a really bad weekend and you need to talk to someone.  You start the conversation with some superficial chit-chat and then you tell your story.  You respect this person so you are willing to share honest information.  You are open and direct and belive the person cares and is concerned about what you have to say.

For teachers and parents, it should be obvious that both have a responsibility for creating a mutually shared respectful relationship.

Parents have vital information about their children that teachers should know and teachers need to make sure parents have a clear understanding of the social and academic standards and expectations in their classroom. 

To encourage a mutually shared respectful relationship both parents and teacher would benefit from doing the following:

  • Be straight forward, sincere, and authentic when communicating
  • Be consistent in how you communicate 
  • Be willing to ask for help or assistance
  • Be readily available to communicate and share information
  • Be prepared to provide only first hand or primary information

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 Next Comes Support

As described above, respect is the willingness to share honest information with another person. It is the first step in creating mutually shared respect, support, and trust between and among people. 

The next step is for individuals to support the information they receive with honest feedback. In other words,  individuals show an appreciation for the information they are given by providing a response that establishes a social bond or connection. Absent this respectful connection, information tends to lose its value quickly and in many ways becomes counterproductive.

Consider a time, you provided sincere information to another person who offered no response.  Worse, the individual ignored you and communicated new information which had no connection to the information you offered. Thus, the communication, which represented your ideas and thinking, was not supported. The result leads to a negative relationship where you are less likely to respect the person and therefore, reluctant to provide authentic information in the future. 

For Example – Let’s say you meet a friend or colleague for lunch.  You have had a really bad weekend and you need to talk to someone.  You start the conversation with some superficial chit-chat and then you tell your story.  Before you get to know it, you are interrupted by the person on the other side of the table talking about their weekend, kids, or (fill in the blank).  You wait for a moment and restart your story and this time you hear, “that’s too bad” or “sorry to hear” and the person across starts talking about something else.

How do you feel?  

For teachers and parents, support is critical if a productive relationship is to exist and continue.  But to do this, communication must be framed to draw each other into the conversation by making it clear that their opinions are valued and appreciated. 

Parents can provide supportive feedback by clarifying and adding information to teachers communicated assessments and conclusions about their kids. Specifically, parents can provide a more balanced picture of their kid for the teacher based on what is occurring outside of the school.

Teachers can provide supportive information to parents on what their kid is doing well in school by emphasizing strengths over deficits.   Through this mutually shared support, parents and teachers construct a balanced view of the child or young adult; a perspective that includes the body, mind, and spirit. 

To encourage a mutually shared supportive relationship both parents and teacher would benefit from doing the following: 

  • Focus on information requiring you to take action
  • Focus on information that surprises you
  • Focus on information that is new and different
  • Focus on information that encourages questions
  • Focus on information that will help you the most

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Trust brings it all together

Mutually shared respect and support are the essential factors in creating a productive, good parent-teacher relationship.  Respectful and supportive communications provide a wealth of information.

But parents and teachers can be much more than productive if they value and build on the information they receive from each other.   From the information they give and the feedback they provide, they can create a great trusting relationship.

As described above, respect is the sharing of honest information, and support is providing honest feedback based on the information received. 

Mutually shared trust occurs when both parents and teachers use the feedback they receive in an appreciative fashion.  In other words, parents and teachers use the feedback they receive to respect and support each other to build their relationship.

Key points to remember

  1. The more parents and teachers communicate honest information the more they respect each other
  2. The more parents and teachers provide honest feedback the more they support each other
  3. The more parents and teachers appreciate the support they receive the stronger the bond and trusting relationship that is created.

This result is a rich and sustainable relationship.   

How to Begin?

To begin building respect, support and trust — great parent-teacher relationships — recruit a few parents from your kid’s classroom and educate them about the RST process.   By having at least one parent as your partner you will be able to present a united, yet positive, presentation to your kid’s teacher. 

Next, contact your kid’s teacher requesting a meeting to discuss the formation of a RST relationship around a specific topic. Request a minimum of 30 minutes. It’s important to select a topic so the RST process will make sense.  For example, you could select homework, communications, or project-based learning.  Make sure you explain to the teacher that the purpose of the meeting is positive. 

The third step is to hold the meeting with your kid’s teacher(s) to describe the RST process and why it’s important. Be prepared to discuss the entire RST process and don’t worry if your teacher partner is confused at first or resistant.  Use the RST process to encourage the exchange of honest information and ask to have a regular meeting schedule.   

In the beginning, the RST process may seem very mechanical.  That’s okay.  Most important, don’t try to rush things. As the saying goes, Go Slow to Go Fast.   

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