While there are a variety of factors that contribute to our students’ personal and academic success, we’ve always believed that relationships, specifically relationships between principals and parents, is one that is most commonly overlooked and underestimated. Below you’ll find five tips to help you cultivate better relationsips with parents and connect with confidence.
This is a tip from Carol Judd’s book, Principal Practices: Addressing Human Needs for Successful School Administration. As Judd points out, many of us unknowingly set up barriers between parents and ourselves. The good news is that eliminating barriers is often simpler than we might think.
We can begin by asking parents to address us by our first names and do the same with them. This makes us more approachable and allows us to work with parents on more equal terms.
Another way to eliminate barriers is to keep an open-door policy and encourage parents to drop in anytime. Recruit your secretaries and encourage them to eliminate barriers as well. When parents stop in to see you, have your secretary skip the “screening” process where s/he asks parents their names, purpose, and any other questions that may be off-putting. Instead, have your secretary simply stop in and ask if you have a minute to talk to the parents.
Ask more questions
We spend a lot of time with students, but parents have spent far longer with them—which means they know more about them than we ever will. When you meet with parents, use this as an opportunity to listen and learn. The following questions are great starters:
- What is the student like at home?
- How does she learn best?
- Do the parents have specific hopes and dreams for her?
- Does the student have aspirations that you might not know about?
- What did the student like about her last teacher? What didn’t she like?
- What learning strategies did this teacher use that worked well for the student?
Call parents—all of them
A personal invitation to major school events is a great way to connect with parents. While you can’t feasibly call every parent on your own, you can 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 major school events. If you’re thinking that this sounds like a lot of work, you’re right—but the payoff is well worth it.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Parents work hard for their families, but in spite of their busy schedules, many of them are still eager to volunteer at the school when they can. Assume that parents want to be involved. Reach out to them and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the number of parents who follow through.
Connect with parents using the tools they use
Not all parents have home computers or access to smartphones, but many of them do and prefer electronic communication over monthly newsletters sent through snail mail. Start by taking advantage of all the free technology at your fingertips: Facebook and Twitter are both excellent tools to help keep parents in the loop.