Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Leadership - See Parents as Friends, Not Foes: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Leadership - See Parents as Friends, Not Foes: News

Article excerpt

You all have students' best interests at heart, so work together to support them.

Working with parents is one of the most important things that school leaders do and it can also be one of the most intimidating. Whether they are emanating anger, sadness or concern, it can be very troubling when those emotions are directed solely at you.

As a leader, you have to accept that parents are always going to be emotional when it comes to their children: they are talking about their most precious treasures. Indeed, it would be more worrying if they were indifferent and not engaged.

Also, regardless of our personal impression of the parenting skills of the person we are interacting with, we should feel confident that they are doing their best. Rather than judging them on what they do at home, we must figure out the best way to work with them so that we can help our students perform to the best of their abilities. This is our responsibility regardless of our feelings towards the adults. And so here is a four-step guide to doing just that.

Build a relationship before you need it

If the first contact that a teacher has with a parent is negative, it takes a huge amount of effort to overcome that initial impression. Making personal phone calls home to introduce yourself to parents before the year kicks off will get you off to a good start.

Another option is to send a complimentary postcard home near the beginning of the school year detailing something specific the student has done.

If you have a back-to-school or open-house night, make sure you give parents the impression that you will take care of their child. Whether the student is 5 or 17, that is still the essential message that needs to be communicated at this early point in the school year. This does not mean explaining your discipline system or grading policy; it is about smiling, welcoming everyone and ensuring that each parent feels their child matters to you.

Among other things you can make sure that every parent has your email address, the school phone number and, if you really want to make a positive impression, your mobile phone number. Demonstrating trust towards parents can encourage them to reciprocate.

Continual communication

Sending regular newsletters home, having a teacher or class Facebook page and using Twitter for daily communication can help parents feel as though they are in the loop. …

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