AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Building Parent-Teacher Partnerships


Good two-way communication is necessary for student success. Parents and teachers who share relevant information about a student are better able to help that student achieve academically.

Good two-way communication means that parents are more likely to be more involved with their children's learning at home. And, teachers see an improvement in student achievement, improvement on student's self image, a reduction in disruptive classroom behavior, and improved teacher-student relationships.

Good communication means sharing good news, calling parents on the phone, and meeting parents in person.

Share Good News

Make sure to share good news instead of only bad news. Parents are accustomed to having schools contact them only when their children are in need of academic or behavioral remediation. When you make calls to share positive information, be prepared for them to sound surprised-pleasantly surprised. Another added benefit to positive communications: Parents are more likely to be involved when good news is shared more often than bad.

Try ItTeacher's on the phone
During his 35 years in the classroom, retired high school science teacher Thomas Hoolihan of New York learned the value of positive reinforcement-for parents as well as students. Each week, he would make "sunshine calls" in the evening to parents. They expected bad news about their child, but his purpose was to pass on good news from that day or week. He reports that when the student came to class the next day, he or she always said something about their parents' positive reaction to the phone call. When other students heard about the calls, they asked how they could earn such a "reward."

Tips for Using the Phone to Communicate with Parents

Sometimes, as a new teacher, it's difficult to make the first call to a parent or guardian. Preparing for the call will make it easier. Before making a call, write down the reasons for the call. One reason is simply to introduce yourself to the parent or guardian. These tips can help you prepare:

  • Introduce yourself.
  • Tell parents what their child is studying.
  • Invite them to open house and other school functions.
  • Comment on their child's progress.
  • Inform them of a special achievement, such as "Student of the Week."
  • Inform them of their child's strengths or share an anecdote.

Listen to a sample "Get Acquainted" phone call.

Meeting with Parents

Face-to-Face Meetings with parents help establish an ongoing conversation, a sense of trust and shared information that will help your students. Use this checklist to help ensure productive parent-teacher conferences.

Open House, Orientation or Curriculum Nights

The school hosts and orientation night during the first week or two of school. This event provides an opportunity for parents to learn about schoowide policies and programs such as discipline, homework, extracurricular activities, scheduling, and how parents can get involved. We've created a list of ideas for organizing an open house or curriculum night in your school.

Try ItIndex of Excuses
When children in Philadelphia teacher Diane Gimpel's class do not have their homework, they must write their excuse on an index card. Gimpel then puts the dated cards in the student's portfolio, ready for the next parent-teacher conference. It is a powerful tool and teaches a powerful lesson.