Do you want to know the real secret to a super successful, absolutely epic school year? Well, it’s not perfect lesson planning or perfect activities or resources or anything along those lines. An epic year stems from partnerships with parents. Yes, the true secret to an epic, happy, successful year all relies on the relationships that you build with families. I’ve learned this the hard way through lots of experience, and this can change your teacher life, trust me. That is why we will be doing a two part series about building and nurturing parent partnerships.
I am going to give you some of my best strategies for doing just that, in hopes that it will provide you a super awesome school year. Sound like a plan? Let’s do it, Teacher.
Why Work on Building Parent Partnerships?
I’m so excited about the topic today because it’s something I truly feel that I’m talented at. I don’t know why. I don’t know where it came from. I’m actually very introverted. But I love communicating and building these relationships with families, because I have personally seen growth from students that could not have been accomplished by any other means.
Families are so vital to our success. Supportive families can truly help you grow and be more encouraged and happy in your lives. I’ve talked about how families can be cheerleaders for you HERE. But it’s truly teacher-life changing, and I hope you will be convinced of that.
I want to take some of my passion in this area and give you some actionable tips and strategies that `you can use to find the same success. The goal for today is to help you in building those relationships. It’s the startup, it’s the foundation that we are laying today. And then next week, I’ll tell you how to nurture those relationships, how to keep them going throughout the school year.
How to Start Building Parent Partnerships
So in today’s episode, as we’re talking about building those partnerships, these are steps you can take at the beginning of the school year to really ensure that your parents are primed and ready to help you, to support you, to cheer for you. If we spend this valuable time doing this right off the bat, I promise you everything for the rest of the school year will go much, much smoother.
“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” That is what Henry Ford said. I so believe that if we take this time to build these relationships, success for our students will come naturally if we’re working on it together.
Another quote I really love says, “Individually we are one drop, but together we are an ocean.” That is so true in the classroom. Don’t we all believe it takes an entire community to raise a child? Well, the same thing goes for educating those children. It takes more than just me alone. I need some help in this. So that is why I want to work on building these parent partnerships to have that teammate, that cheerleader, that’s going to get us through this year and find success for our little learners.
Building Parent Partnerships Begins With First Impressions
The number one thing I want you to really focus on are first impressions. We all know that saying: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Research has proven time and again that first impressions can have a lasting impact on business and personal relationships. We truly owe our parents, many who are nervous about sending their little one back to school this year, our very best first impression yet.
So when you think about first impressions, I want you to remember two questions. According to Amy Cuddy, a Harvard Business School professor, there are two questions that we subconsciously ask ourselves every time we meet someone new. The first question is, can I trust this person? And the second question is, can I respect this person? Are they deserving of my respect?
Show Yourself to Your Families
I’m going to give you some strategies that have been written with these two questions at the core. The first thing you need to ensure that you’re doing at the beginning of building these relationships is to show yourself to your families. Now, most of us are having open house events and things like that. But what if families do not attend? What if they’re not even sure who you are, or what you look like? Can we truly trust someone that we’ve never seen with our baby?
So use whatever means you have to let them see you. If they don’t attend an in person event, schedule a Zoom or FaceTime call with each parent. If that isn’t a possibility, send out a personalized pre-recorded video introducing yourself and giving them some startup information.
Now that they’ve been able to see you, they are more likely to opt in to trust you. So show yourself to build this first impression of trust.
Make it About Them
Another suggestion is to always make it about them. We host these meet the teacher things, but truly you should strive to make it about them in the very beginning. After introducing yourself, give parents an opportunity to share their goals, thoughts and concerns about the school year. Then let your passion, knowledge, and experience be the answer to their comments. This really builds that respect and trust even deeper.
Let me give you an example. When speaking to parents, you’ve asked them, “What are your hopes and goals for your baby?” They may say something along the lines of, “My biggest hope is that Jimmy will become a better listener this year. He doesn’t do anything I ask him to do.”
Remember, we’re going to turn that around, make it about them, and also show how our experience and knowledge can help this child. One possible response could be, “It has been my experience that many children are better at following directions during school time. I also have a great management plan that rewards students for following directions.”
So we’ve listened to their needs, we’ve made it about them, and we have provided solutions to help. That is very powerful in building that trust and respect.
Use Your Body
Another key concept in building that great first impression is to use your body. We sometimes forget that our body language is very powerful and can be used to create an enthusiastic environment. Keep small things in mind like using eye contact to show each person that you are listening and fully focused on what they have to say. You can nod, you can grin, and use hand movements to keep your whole body involved in your conversation.
These are small cues, but they can make a big impact in how they perceive you as being responsive to their needs. Practice using eye contact, body movements, even the tone of your voice: keep it upbeat and light and joyful. That will make a big difference here.
Make it a Team Effort
This first impression is a great time to vocalize your willingness and happiness in teaming up with this family. Everyone has this innate need to feel included and to be part of a pack. So we’re going to use that as fuel in firing up support from families in this very first communication.
Express how you’ll need their support to win during the school year. We’re going to use explicit language to demonstrate this. You can say things like, “I can’t wait to work with you. Together, we will accomplish so much this year.” Or, “I’m so thankful to work with such a caring family. I know we’ll do big things as a team.”
Include some of this team up language in these first conversations, and you’ll be surprised just how powerful that will be for you, and to help your families know that we are a team. We’re going to do this together.
Practice Makes Perfect
And to wrap up our first impressions part, let me say that practice makes perfect. Imagine you have a job interview coming up for a high paying position, doing what you love to do. Would you practice? Absolutely, you would.
Now think of your first impressions with your new family and treat this situation with the same mentality. Having them on your side, and not working against you, from the very beginning can pay you in monumental ways. Don’t forget to practice. Decide what you want to communicate, write it down, or a rough outline of it. Ask a close family member or friend to listen and give advice when needed.
This will not only help you in preparing, but will also make you appear more at ease and confident when you actually do the presenting to the families. This will help ensure you have the very best first impression you can possibly have.
Be Their Dream Teacher
Let’s move on from first impressions, and let’s talk about being their dream teacher. We know it is every parent’s dream for their child to have a teacher that loves them and has their best interest at heart. We want to help parents perceive us in this way from the very beginning of the school year. I’m going to give you some tips on how to do just that.
Express Your Passion
To be the dream teacher, the first thing you need to do is to express your passion. When families know we’re actually passionate about what we do, that helps them perceive us as just a phenomenal teacher. You can do this by using your language. It’s so, so easy.
Here are some things I often say to parents when I first meet them. “I’m so happy to be here. Working with children is my passion.” Or, “I’ll do everything in my power to help your child be successful.” And one of my favorites, something I say all the time, is, “I just feel so blessed to be your child’s teacher.” I say this in text messages and Facebook posts and newsletters, but I definitely say it during our very first communication.
I want them to know that this is what I love to do, and I’m just happy to be here doing it.
Show Love and Concern
So we want to show our passion, but we also want to show our love and concern for their child. I’m going to give you one of my favorite strategies, something I’ll never go a year without doing. That is a personal letter that you ask your parents to write about their child. This actually came from a friend of mine, a co-worker Deanne, she does this every year as well.
She reaches out to parents and invites them to write a personal letter to you, the teacher, about their child. You ask them to tell you about their child’s needs, their hobbies, their dislikes, etc. This is actually a free template called Write About Your Little One HERE. This template tells parents how to write a letter to you about their child. So they write it, they put it in an envelope if you like, you can include this when you send it home. When they send back the completed letter, it’s just a gift to you.
In reading these letters, you will feel a strong sense of connection to your families and students, and providing this opportunity for them will demonstrate just how invested you are in getting to know their baby. Something I like to do is to keep these letters and then return them to families at the end of the school year. This is something they can keep for their child to read when their child has grown.
Give a Welcome Kit
Another thing you can do is to give a welcome kit. A welcome kit is this thoughtful little gift to parents that really has all these little items to show just how much you care. This idea comes from my great friend Dr. Jean. You put a note and these little items like cotton balls, rubber bands, pennies, and the note says, “Welcome to your new classroom. Each item in this bag has a special meaning. The cotton ball is a reminder to you that our classroom is full of kind words and warm feelings.”
As you can imagine, when parents receive this welcome kit, it just shows how thoughtful you are, and really feeds into that dream teacher aspect that we are, again, trying to build with our families.
There are many, many things that you can do to really build these parent partnerships. Just be thoughtful in the very beginning.
Have Fun Building Parent Partnerships!
Think it through, spend time here, don’t forget that this is really the secret to a happy school year. If you have their support, if they’re cheering you on and want to see you succeed as much as you want to succeed, everything is just easier, my friend, trust me.
Sweet teacher, I hope you have found some information today that will be helpful for you in this upcoming school year. I believe that you are the teacher that every child needs. I know that, because here you are spending your free time learning and improving. And I appreciate you. I hope you will take some of the information today, add in your own knowledge and experience and creativity, and really work on building those parent partnerships that will make such a huge difference for you.
I also hope you’ll join me here next week as we talk about nurturing those relationships that we’ve just worked so hard to build. We have to keep feeding those throughout the school year. But it’s not hard at all. It’s actually very simple. And I want to give you some strategies to help. So join me back here next week. I love you. It’s great to be with you. And as always, until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.
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Toni’s work is always EXACTLY what I need. She is timely, wise, caring, generous and concise.