Parent outreach: The hot new trend in boosting student performance! (Part 2 of 3)

Tips for Successful Partnerships with Families, Part II

This is the second part of a three-part series of best practices, written by Michele Narov, Lead Teacher in Newark Public Schools.

Kinvolved’s communication app helps teachers reach parents and other members of students’ support networks to foster relationships. How can teachers make sure these relationships are positive and that the communication app is used to reach full impact?

 Tip #6: Gather all the information before you call.

If you are calling a parent about something that happened when you were not present, or some sort of behavior, consult with your students, and make sure you have all the information beforehand. This is pretty much a no-brainer, but during my first year of teaching I called a parent about a student who was squinting at the board only to learn this child brought glasses to school every day but was leaving them in his backpack. His parent was still happy I called to inform her that her son wasn’t wearing glasses, but a few more probing questions with my student would have given me a better picture of the problem.

Similarly, if I need to call about an ongoing issue between two students, I make sure to gather the full picture of events based on specific accounts from both students so it doesn’t turn into a conversation based on hearsay.

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 Tip #7: Come up with a plan.

A few weeks ago, I had to call the parent of a student in my class who was constantly daydreaming and off task during the beginning of class and introductions to new material, despite constant personal reminders.

Before I called, I spoke with my student and together she and I came up with a plan to move her seat closer to the front of the room, and make sure she filled in her notes at the beginning of class. When I called her mom, I was able to say this is what is happening, and here is how I’m handling it, with a list of expected results her daughter and I had decided on together. Communicating your plan to deal with the issue can help make sure your conversation is productive.

Make sure to ask parents for feedback. Sometimes, if you don’t pose the question, “What are your thoughts on this?” parents won’t volunteer their opinions, or may assume you are not consulting them. They are experts on their children, and often their feedback on your plan to address a behavior can be most vital.

Don’t feel pressure to get back to them about their feedback during the course of the call. It’s okay to say that you would like to consider their comments and get back to them.

Tip #8: Monitor success and report back

Monitor the students’ behavior after your parent phone call. Note specifically what is changing for the student and how they are behaving. Report back to the parent about how their student is doing, even with a quick message or text. This feedback can be a very valuable follow up and encourage the student to continue working hard, especially for younger students who are learning the difference between positive and negative classroom behaviors.

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Tip #9: Ask for feedback on your communication methods

You shouldn’t overwhelm your parents with requests for feedback, but checking in during the middle of the year with a survey on your communication style isn’t much of a demand on their time and can be very useful. Also, during parent teacher conferences, it never hurts to ask parents if there are any updates they would like to receive that they are not receiving already.

Research shows that just because parents can’t always be present in the classroom doesn’t mean they don’t want to be involved. In my classroom, I have found that systematically reaching out to parents has affected my students’ performance data nearly as much as my academic interventions have. How are you making parent communication a priority in your classroom or school program?

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Contributor: Michele Narov was Kinvolved’s Summer Business Development Associate. She was responsible for developing and fostering partnerships with schools, after school programs, and community organizations dedicated to improving student success. Michele is a Teach For America corps member, and serves as a third grade math and science teacher at Camden Street Elementary School in Newark, NJ.

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