When was the last time you heard someone say, “And where were the parents?” or “What’s going on with parents these days?” You may have even said this yourself a few times.
We may not always understand parents, but we never doubt that the majority of them want what’s best for their child. And even when parents are difficult, we know how important it is to maintain positive relationships with them.
Since challenging parents are never going to completely go away, we’d like to share a few tips—courtesy of educational leadership experts Todd Whitaker and Douglas J. Fiore—to help you better navigate these relationships.
Connecting with Parents: 5 Tips for Principals
Call parents—all of them
You’ve already hosted back-to-school night, but extending a personal invitation to any major school event is a great way to connect with parents.
Round up the student council, ask for teacher volunteers and host an evening in which the group attempts to call every family and personally invite them to back-to-school night. If you’re thinking that this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right—but the payoff is well worth it.
Dare to give parents your number
At an event where you have a large audience of parents, encourage them to call you in both the office and at home if they need to. We agree, giving out your home phone number sounds a little unorthodox, perhaps even foolish, but here’s Whitaker and Fiore’s rationale:
This approach makes everyone in that auditorium feel that someone cares about them and their child. Years later parents would tell me that they always remembered that. The other benefit was that teachers began doing the same thing.
Irrational parents will always find a way to get your home phone number and will call you regardless. It may come as a surprise, but Whitaker and Fiore explain that they are consistently approached by parents who say, “I was going to call you at home. I know you said we could, but I figured you get so many calls that I decided that I did not want to ever bother you at night.”
Personal phone calls go a long way. Try randomly calling one or two families every week—or touch base with a parent who has expressed concern over a situation in the school a week or two later to ask how things are going.
Reaching out to the community
Education and educators take a consistent beating from the media. It’s discouraging, but one way you can help change this is by contacting local television, public radio and blogs with pieces of good news about your school. If they ignore you, be vigilant and see if you can find contacts through parents.
Use technology to connect more efficiently
Most schools have a monthly edition of the school newsletter. These usually include a column in which the principal shares his/her musings, updates and reminders. This is nice, but it lacks a personal touch for a variety of reasons:
- It’s impersonal (parents can’t hear you)
- It isn’t always timely (most newsletters come once a month)
- Newsletters often get mixed up in parents’ random junk mail
- Parents can’t respond to newsletters unless they call you
- Parents often cannot access this information on a mobile device
As an alternative to the newsletter, try creating two or three minute podcasts, audio recordings that parents receive every Friday in their email box. These podcasts can be conversational: In addition to the usual updates and reminders you might find in a newsletter, feature short interviews with student athletes, coaches, thespian students and teachers. Once you’re done, simply embed the recording onto your Facebook page, website or school blog and email a link to the parents who have requested to receive notifications.