The Open Pencil Box » a little box of inspiration for you + them

Building Strong Parent Teacher Relationships…What I’ve Learned


A strong parent-teacher relationship can make your job a lot easier.  I was blessed to realize this when I worked as a teacher assistant in the Head Start program while I was pursuing my teaching degree. The program required parents to do so many volunteer hours and it was through that program that I learned how valuable good relationships with parents are. It really is the teacher’s effort to reach out to parents and that isn’t always the easiest. Here are some of the ways I’ve already used to make these connections and some new ideas I want to work on.

  1. Make occasional emails a habit– I try to sit down after school on Wednesdays and Fridays and send out 2-3 emails. To random parents just telling them something GOOD about their child. It might be a particular story or accomplishment about their child or reasons why I’m grateful to have their kid in my class. Sometimes I even tell the class I’m sending an email home about one of them and then I ask them what I should put in the email and let them share positive words about the particular student. Sending out ‘just because’ emails serves two purposes for me: A)Helps me to stop and reflect about each student and find the good in them. We all have students that are hard for us to like and forcing myself to find the good in them makes me respect and appreciate them better—even when it’s hard. B)When parents are receiving ‘just because emails’ that talk about how great their child is they will respond to you better when you have to call home to address a serious concern or behavior.  Parents can be our biggest alley in the classroom.
  2. View parents as tutors– the old proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ couldn’t be any more true. I think about what I need help the most with teaching and the answer is during small group instruction. I love volunteers to come in and help me pull reading or math groups. I plan the groups and lessons I want my volunteers to teach and have everything ready for when they come in.  Plus this takes the pressure off me. I don’t feel like parents are coming in to watch me teach because they are busy teaching themselves.
  3. Set boundaries, establish policies and be honest about them– I tell parents up front that I need classroom volunteers (whether they are able to themselves or have a grandparent or extended family member) but I also tell them very honestly that I don’t let anyone in my classroom for the first four weeks of school. I’m just not comfortable with having eyes on me while I’m teaching routines and establishing my classroom management. Children don’t come with a handbook and I need time to get to know my students and get into a groove. I also tell parents exactly what time they are allowed to come in my classroom to volunteer (ie. Every day between 9:00-9:45 or 1:45-2:15.) It’s usually when I pull small groups and I have pre-planned materials ready for them.
  4. Treat your “know it all” parents as exactly that- know it alls. Every year without fail, I get a parent who has a strong opinion about how I should be running my classroom. It always catches me off guard and at first would make me uncomfortable but now I just smile and say “oh I haven’t thought of that.” It’s easy to come in and point out all kinds of things when you’re not the one spending 40 hours a week with these kids. You’re the teacher though and at the end of the day it’s your circus. Have confidence in that because when you don’t you’ll start making excuses for why you don’t want parents in your classroom.
  5. Plan a day each month when you can invite all parents in the classroom at once– a once the month genius hour, or reading hour, or math game time. Classroom parties are another opportunity to get parents in your classroom. I like to have the kids perform reader’s theaters for their parents on a pre-planned Friday afternoon. For next year I’m going to plan a once a month project for parents to come in and do with their children together (make bird feeders, create a 3D town, Book-fair, design, build and fly kite are some ideas I have so far.) I’m still working on ideas for this now—please comment any ideas below. I would love to hear them!
  6. Utilize apps that will text parents instead of email. I used to use email as my go to but now I have so many junk emails it takes me a minute to sift through them. We all know that a text message is the easiest way to communicate and everyone has a cell phone. I use remind 101 and class dojo to keep an instant connection with my parents.
  7. Address negative parent situations quickly– if you have an angry parent schedule a face to face or phone conference immediately. Don’t ever give a parent time to stew. Always remember you’re both in this for the children. Even when you don’t agree with a parent (and you more often won’t, than do) you still have to remember they love their child too. Even if they have a different way of showing it.
  8. Stop stressing over homework- I remember when I first began teaching I would totally judge parents on whether or not they sat down and did homework with their child. If they didn’t I assumed they just didn’t care or were lazy. Fast forward to having my own children. My daughter was diagnosed with speech delay at age 2 and had home speech therapy. The therapist assigned homework to work on with her daily. I realized real quickly how hard it is to juggle work, two young children, and a household—PLUS sit down to do these speech therapy homework every night. We did it, but it was still hard and it really gave me an appreciation for the little bit of time parents spend with their children at night. It’s so easy to judge someone when you’re on the outside looking in. Give parents the benefit of the doubt when it comes to homework.
  9. Share your interests with parents too– I have a Cleveland Browns flag hanging in my classroom window. Let me tell you what a conversation starter that is. I have parents who don’t even have children in my classroom who will stop in just to talk football with me, or the fact that I’m from Ohio and I live in Arizona. In a day in age when teachers are accused of being the main fault in our “failing education system” this humanizes me to parents. They realize I too have a family and life outside of the classroom. I also get to learn more about them as well.
  10. Here is where my OCD kicks in. I hate to stop my list at 9 and not 10 but I can’t think of anything else. How are you finding ways to develop strong parent teacher relationships in your classroom?



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