5 Reasons to Reach Out to Families Early in the Year
Updated: Jul 5, 2022
A few years ago, I overheard a conversation that helped me glimpse the power of early, positive communication with families, particularly with those for whom
school—home connections may be necessary but difficult.
A kindergarten teacher we'll call Tina (after my mom who was a dedicated educator for 27 years) spoke about her new student, Maximilius. Maximilius had been retained due to academic and social-emotional concerns, but Tina was determined to start fresh in her relationship with Maximilius.
Most importantly, she resolved to make an ally out of Maximilius’ mother.
The first day of school, she phoned Mom. “Hi, I just wanted to let you know Maximilius had a fantastic day. So glad he's in my class.” Click.
Two days later, Tina called again.
“I loved seeing Maximilius tying a friend’s shoelace on the playground today. He’s the only one in our class who can tie. Isn’t that neat? Thought you’d like to know.” Click.
She made these quick, positive phone calls to Maximilius’ mom a few more times during the first two weeks of school.
Listening to this story, I envisioned Maximilius’ mother. For her, last school year must have been extremely taxing, probably punctuated by a series of thorny interactions with the school. How joyfully taken aback she must have been to hear compliments about her child!
Tina noted that when the honeymoon period was over and Maximilius had a few predictable struggles, Tina knew she could reach out to his mother and find a partner.
Instead of Mom feeling defensive, fearful, or embarrassed,
she recognized Tina as someone
who cared for, believed in, and saw good in her son.
This time Tina’s phone call went, “Max had a rough day today. I was wondering if you've noticed anything going on at home. Do you have any strategies that seem to work well for you? He's made so much progress. I know we can tackle this together.”
Tina taught me that it takes only a few minutes to promote a positive, caring relationship with families.
Here are 5 reasons to reach out with positive communication
in the first few weeks of school.
1. The teacher, seeking nuggets of goodness to share with families, begins the year viewing students with an optimistic eye, setting the tone for the school year.
2. The teacher is positioned as a believer—in the student and in the family’s ability to support learning and growth. Mutual respect and confidence launch a cycle of positivity.
3. Families view teachers with greater grace, patience, and understanding when they know the teacher’s intentions align with students’ best interests and needs.
4. Students, especially those with behavioral challenges, may have developed a negative pattern of behavior, impacting their confidence and attitude about school. Replacing criticism with a kind word may help disrupt self-sabotaging routines. A new school year holds new possibilities for success and happiness at school.
5. It feels good. Families feel proud when they hear their child is making good choices or working hard at school. Students sense the teacher cares and holds high expectations for their success.
Learning to navigate as a student is tricky, but navigating the rough waters of parenthood is daunting! Our parents need us to champion their kiddos. They also need us to elevate THEM as leaders of their child's learning. Early childhood and elementary are the time to lay this foundation.
Teachers lay the groundwork for positive back-and-forth communication with families.
We help kids grow best when we remember
we’re all on the same side!
Help parents feel confident by passing along a few posts they will find helpful. For tips to support parents through summer months, check out Six Parenting Tips to Prevent Math Summer Slide. For a boost in the area of math, see 5 Simple Steps to Becoming the Math-Positive Parent You've Always Wanted to Be. For math-phobic parents, help them find joy in doing math as a family. My YouTube channel and 20-Minute Math Activities aim to help even the most math-panicked parents see how simple, hands-on activities build math-positive mindsets along with mathematical understanding.