Every parent/guardian wants their child to have a happy meaningful life. One of the keys to achieving this ideal is through education.
And teachers are vital to a student achieving success. Ask any teacher their creed, and they are sure to say something about helping every student learn and grow.
Because parents/guardians and teachers have the same goals, it’s natural for them to partner and develop a relationship. Let’s go deeper and explore why the parent-teacher relationship is important, how to build it, and how it can help the child/student.
Why are Parent-Teacher Relationships Important?
While it’s logical to believe that the parent teacher relationship is important, there are also studies to back it up.
Consider the results found in this study which was published in the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness:
“We find that frequent teacher-family communication immediately increased student engagement as measured by homework completion rates, on-task behavior, and class participation.”
Parents/guardians may feel it’s the job of the teacher to educate, and they would prefer to be hands off. On the flip side, teachers may feel that their job is easier if they can focus on the student and not have to deal with parents/guardians.
This is not the right approach.
According to the Center for American Progress, “When parents and families are engaged with their children’s education, everyone benefits.”
“Engaged parents report better attitudes about their child’s education; their children experience better academic, behavioral, and social outcomes; and schools receive better ratings on measures of climate and culture.”
And according to this article, “The best predictor of student success is the extent to which families encourage learning at home and involve themselves in their child’s education.”
Strong parent-teacher relationships benefit all students.
“Building partnerships between families and schools is an effective strategy to address opportunity gaps, especially for those who have been historically underserved,” says Iheoma Iruka, co-principal investigator of ELN’s University of Nebraska-Lincoln team.
“Strong partnerships support children’s learning and ability to develop lifelong skills and networks, while also strengthening parents’ capacity to be engaged in their child’s school experience,” Iruka adds.
How to Build a Positive Parent-Teacher Relationship
Clearly, children/students receive many benefits from a strong parent-teacher relationship. But how can parents and teachers develop that relationship in the first place?
Like any relationship, a good parent-teacher relationship starts with communication.
According to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), “research shows that the more parents and teachers share relevant information with each other about a student, the better equipped both will be to help that student achieve academically.”
The Early Learning Network offers parents/guardians three suggestions. Communicate early on and throughout the school year, and “Start by letting him/her know that you want to play your part in your child’s education.”
Secondly, make the teacher aware of the best way to communicate with you. And lastly, “…let your teacher know important things about your child.”
Some parents/guardians might be reluctant to share some information for fear of having their student be judged or they may prefer for the relationship between student and teacher to develop naturally.
However, disclosing important information is crucial. Sharing important information about the child is like giving the teacher the instructions on how to best work with the child.
And what should teachers do to develop relationships with parents?
Communicate with parents/guardians before the school year begins, if possible.
In this communication, a teacher should include a request for parents/guardians to engage and share relevant information about their student, background about themselves, insights into their teaching style, a review of their expectations, and contact information.
Another way to build a positive parent-teacher relationship is for the teacher to communicate good news.
According to the AFT, “Research shows that school-home communication is greatly increased through personalized positive telephone contact between teachers and parents.”
“When a phone call from school conveys good news, the atmosphere between home and school improves.”
It’s also important for both parents and teachers to treat the relationship with respect, be mindful of each other’s time, set down clear expectations, communicate promptly, and judge favorably (i.e. not jump to any conclusions).
Dealing with Conflict in Parent-Teacher Relationships
Despite the best of intentions, conflicts may arise between teacher and parents/guardians. The first, and arguably most important step, is to presume each party has the best interests of the student at heart.
A teacher should remember to act in a professional capacity. This means being patient and listening to the concerns of the parent/guardian.
“Even if you don’t agree with what the parent is saying, your first step is always to listen. Let them have their say. Empathy can often resolve a problem,” says veteran teacher, Otis Kriegel.
Parents/guardians may have strong beliefs about education that may not be shared by their children’s teachers and schools.
“Some schools don’t ascribe to the same beliefs I hold important, and no matter how much I complain, reach out, nothing is going to change,” says Starr Sackstein in EducationWeek.
If a parent/guardian does not get their way, they can strive to work with the teacher in the areas that they do agree on.
Another way to smooth things over is to have a meeting and include an unbiased third party. Having a third party act as a type of mediator can alleviate any personal animosities and cause both parties to act in a decent manner.
Preparing for the meeting and having specific points to refer to rather than generalities will add clarity and ensure that relevant concerns are hashed out.
Ultimately, the best way to avoid a conflict is to build clear communication beforehand.
This encourages each side to be reasonable and judge each other favorably.
There is no doubt about the fact that positive parent teacher-relationships are beneficial not just for students.
In fact, they can help everyone involved as long as all parties put in the effort and remember that ultimately, strong parent-teacher relations will enable the child to flourish.