Welcome my talented, wonderful teacher friend to part two of our Building and Nurturing Parent Partnership series. If you have landed on this part first, at some point be sure to go back to part number one where we talked about building these relationships. It’s so, so important that we create that firm, reliable foundation that’s going to sustain us through the school year. But also important is nurturing those relationships that we’ve worked so hard to build. So we have to continue nurturing parent partnerships and make sure that they serve us well throughout the school year.
Today’s episode also comes with some awesome free tools, some templates and things, to help you get these things done. I’m so happy to share it with you today. So if you’re ready to nurture those partnerships that mean so much to our success, let’s do it.
Welcome back friends. If you don’t know me, my name is Toni. I’m a regular teacher who wants to spread joy to other teachers so they can enjoy their career more and therefore have a greater impact on their students. If you are enjoying this content, I’m going to link my upcoming professional development training called Joyful Teacher Academy. It will include lots of information to keep you joyful and happy and successful, just like this series is aimed to do. If you’re interested, sign up below for email updates, and you will be the very first to know of its release.
So today we are talking about nurturing those relationships. We can’t just create them and forget about them. There are some key areas within nurturing these partnerships that I’m going to help you identify and give you some strategies and resources. So, let’s talk about nurturing parent partnerships.
Nurturing Parent Partnerships By Setting Boundaries
This first piece of advice is going to be hard to digest. I know because you are super passionate. You spend lots of time thinking, planning, creating for the classroom. This first piece of advice is going to be hard to hear, but it’s very important. It is setting boundaries on communication. Teacher, although you are nearly invincible, you can’t be available and responsive to families at all times. You more than likely have a family, and you have other responsibilities. Maybe you care for an elderly family member, maybe you are active in your church or your community. Whatever it is, you cannot be available all the time, and you should not be. It’s really a mental health issue.
Let me demonstrate it this way. I want to paint a little picture for you. Have you ever gone out to a restaurant just as hungry as you can be, like ravenously hungry, only to find that the restaurant you planned to eat at was closed? Your first response is, of course, to get upset.
Before you get too riled up though, you check the store hours posted on the door, only to see they close every day at the same time. Maybe you just didn’t know. Your aggravation quickly melts away. And you know the closing time for future reference as you head back to your car and go find something else to eat.
In the same way that a restaurant communicates its opening and closing times, we as teachers must define our boundaries to our families to prevent this kind of disappointment from them. I’m going to give you some tips and tools you can use to accomplish a great working relationship that will last through the entire year.
Share Your Story
My first piece of advice about setting these boundaries is to share your story with your families. If they perceive you as someone who is just all work all the time, which they probably will if you don’t go through with this step, then you cannot expect them to understand when you’re not responsive. Don’t assume that every parent that enters your realm knows all about you. Knowing more about your personal circumstances can aid you in setting your boundaries with your families.
Do you have a family or children, an ill family member, a hefty volunteer schedule? You should communicate this clearly. This will not only make your boundaries more accepted, but will provide a net of grace that your families can fall back on when you aren’t able to serve them fully. You can communicate this story in a written letter, maybe a meet the teacher, or even by verbalizing it.
I like to include pictures of my family, that way they see my responsibilities. I have four kids here, I cannot be constantly on my phone answering your text messages. So give me a little grace when you don’t hear from me immediately. This will help families become more in tune with you and help them realize that you have more going on in your life than answering their question about sight-words and homework. Share your story. Don’t be afraid to make those connections with families to really help you in those hard times when you can’t be answering them back.
Create Office Hours
My next piece of advice is to create office hours. You know, if you think about any professional businesses, don’t they all have office hours that are easy to find? Do you provide hours of the day when your families know they can reach you? From the very beginning of the school year make it known to parents when you will be available for questions, concerns, and technical support, and when you will not be. Add this to your newsletter or other communications home. Assure them that you will respond to them as soon as you can.
That is perfectly acceptable. If this information is widely used and widely known, just like the restaurant analogy, they can’t be upset at you if you are closed and you told them that you would be closed. So providing office hours; it can be very, very powerful and helpful to you.
Provide Contact Information
Now this tip is coming with a free template. I love freebies, and this is a really, really good one. All of this information and these templates are available in our Virtual Classroom Survival Guide, a big project I did last year with Dr. Jean, Barbara Gruener, and Laura Buonadonna.
This tip is to provide contact information. One concept that could save you time and confusion is to limit your availability to one communication platform. I know that is hard with all of the things that are available. Whatever you use, try to bring it down to one form of communication. For example, I really love the Remind app, and I encourage my families not to communicate with me in any other way. Decide which one is most convenient for you and your families at home. You can, as I did, list an alternate means in case that one doesn’t work for whatever reason.
You can provide all of this information to families in a neat and easily accessible way by creating a Contact the Teacher card. I love these little cards. This is the free template I was talking about. It’s really cute. They can hang it on the fridge, put it in their wallet, whatever they want.
Grab this freebie, and the next one I’m going to talk about below!
Just remember, setting boundaries is actually helping and nurturing these relationships because they understand when we don’t reply to them immediately. In today’s society, we’re totally programmed to expect a response immediately. So we kind of have to take these extra steps to reassure families that we’re not ignoring them. We’re just working on other things and we will reply or respond whenever possible.
Nurturing Parent Partnerships By Using Tools to Keep Families Informed
So, the next big core idea I want to cover today in nurturing parent partnerships is using tools of communication to keep families informed. When we really attend to keeping our families up to date and informed, we support their identity as being part of the team. In last week’s post about building these relationships, I talked about teaming up with families. Keeping them informed backs up this idea and proves to them that yes, she meant when she said. We are teaming up, and she is letting me know what actions I need to take to stay involved.
Each time we update our families and give them clear, thoughtful communication we are saving ourselves time by preventing confusion. Remember this as you decide when and how you’re going to keep families informed. I’m going to give you some of my tools for doing this.
This one comes with a freebie. It is using weekly newsletters. Families will be very appreciative to have a reminder and visual representation of what needs to be completed each week. Remember how we have all these different learning styles in the classroom: audio, visual, kinesthetic? Well, it kind of goes back to that. Some people need to see something to understand it. So be persistent in planning your instruction at least a week in advance so you can provide families with early notice of their assignments and things that are going on in the classroom.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just a few bullet points on a piece of paper will really help families to understand what is going on and how they can be involved with their child this week. Something I’m going to do this year in addition to my written weekly newsletter is I’m going to give a video newsletter each week. I really believe that adding a video describing what is on the newsletter will add a personal touch to my communication, and to yours as well. This can really relieve some of the overwhelm that some people experience with too many written directions.
So if you provide this video update in addition to, or to replace, your traditional newsletter that will help lots of families connect with you personally. Remember, they need to see you to connect.
Another idea is to use the voice memos. So maybe you’re not big on video, or you just need a quick way to update families. You can try voice memo features on most smartphones. This is a more personable way to get a message across to families and will save you time texting or tapping out long bits of information.
Usually if a parent texts me a question, I just reply with a voice message on my iPhone. They really love that it helps them to hear my voice to understand my tone, and there’s no confusion about what I mean when I say it out loud versus if I were to write it. We know that text messages and emails can be highly misunderstood. Tone is important, so I use voice memos a lot, and you can use this strategy as well to nurture these relationships.
Keep Nurturing Parent Partnerships!
Just remember these relationships that you have with the families of your students are irreplaceable, and it is really hard to repair them. So take time to build those relationships and then follow some simple ways to nurture them. Throughout the school year go back and ask yourself, am I taking these simple steps to really ensure that my families feel involved and I’m nurturing the relationships that we’ve built? Don’t slack on this my teacher friend. Trust me: every ounce of energy that you put into building and nurturing family relationships will come back to you tenfold.
Let’s keep it simple for our families and simple for ourselves, right my dear teacher? I hope you have a wonderful startup to a new school year. I’m so happy to be here putting positive thoughts and information in your head. I hope you have an excellent rest of your day. And as always, until we meet again, go make a difference, teacher friend.