California Educator

September 2012

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Tips for better communication with parents What do parents want? Homework and grading policies, what their child is expected to learn during the year and to be notified if grades are slipping, according to recent polls. Most of all, they want a relationship with the teacher. Colleagues suggest these tips. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Contact parents early on — before there is bad news. Focus on a child's strengths, since parents see themselves in their child and may become defensive. Respect parents' schedules. Many work long hours and cannot communicate or meet with teachers during regular hours. Stress collaboration instead of criticism. Say "How can we work together to improve Mary's study habits?" instead of "I'd like to talk to you about Mary's poor study habits." Ask parents if there is anything you should know about the student that may affect their school work. Send a monthly or bimonthly newsletter or e-newsletter to parents. Post grades online. Create a parent e-mail list for updates and assignments. Emphasize that you and the parents are partners working together on behalf of the student. FIND OUT MORE Anita Williams, center, talks with parents Milly Melendez, left, and Heather Merryman before students arrive in class. Students can facilitate parent-teacher dialogue Having students take charge during par- ent-teacher conferences makes it easier to communicate with parents, says Sandi Mangan, an environmental technology teacher at La Quinta Middle School in Desert Hot Springs. "We have student-led conferences where students talk to their parents. The teacher is a facilitator, and the parent can't talk until the student is done. The student will tell their parent what they need to do bet- 12 California Educator September 2012 ter, study skills they should be using, and things their parents can do to help them to be more successful at school. defensive when students take responsibility for their own learning. Sometimes parents discover they can make positive changes by doing little things, such as giving their chil- dren a quiet place to study or having them spend less time baby-sitting their siblings. "It improves communication between Parents, she says, are seldom on the " parent and teacher — and also between parent and child, " says the Desert Sands Find more tips on communicating with parents, including resources in multiple languages, at Read the results of the Parenting magazine/NEA survey at Teachers Association member. "It opens up the conversation, and sometimes at a later time, parents want to continue the conver- sation. Parents realize the student needs their help, the teacher needs their help, and that teachers aren't the big bad wolf they thought we were. It's a win-win situation for everyone. "

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