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Connect with Confidence: 5 Tips for Principals

Posted on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 @ 09:07 AM


principals
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.

Eliminate Barriers
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. 

 

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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, Parent Engagement, parent partnerships, positive school culture

5 Ways to Turn Challenging Parents Into Allies

Posted on Fri, Dec 13, 2013 @ 15:12 PM

challenging parentsParents can be our most important allies—and while most of them rise to the occasion and meet us halfway to resolve student behavior issues, there will always be parents who refuse to believe that their child could ever behave badly. To help you transform these challenging parents into allies, we’d like to share five tips from this month’s issue of Think Teachers.

5 Ways to Turn Challenging Parents Into Allies


Speak in Private
It’s not uncommon for parents to have their child in tow when they meet with us to discuss their concerns. While the student may have his or her side of the story to share, meeting with the parent and the child at the same time is usually counterproductive: It can lead to interruptions, emotional outbreaks and often makes parents feel more of a need to defend the child.

While you’ll eventually wish to speak with the parents and student together, start by meeting with the parents first. 

Wait Until the Fire Cools
Some parents schedule meetings; others simply show up. We’re always wary of having impromptu meetings with parents. More often than not, parents who just show up are still heated and unready to discuss the issue in a calm, collected manner. Even if you have an open-door policy, there’s really no reason to meet with angry parents.

Preface Your Observations
When speaking with parents, preface your observations with subjective language. I feel,”It’s my understanding,” and “it’s my belief” all suggests that what you are about to say is open to interpretation; it also suggests that you are interested in hearing the parents’ perspective. Prefacing your observations will keep parents from becoming defensive and give them the opportunity to share their perspective.

Have Tangible Evidence
Many parents are in denial because they haven’t seen any tangible evidence of the behavior in question. Always document every instance of the child’s behavior and have the list ready to show the parents. You may wish to include disciplinary write-ups and test scores on hand as well.

Listen and Be Empathetic
Give parents the necessary and uninterrupted time to give you their side of the story. They may have information that puts the behavior into perspective. And keep in mind that parents may be experiencing stress that is only compounded by dealing with those of their child.

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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, Parent Engagement, Role of Principal in School, new principal, parent partnerships

Connecting with Parents: 5 Tips for Principals

Posted on Wed, Nov 06, 2013 @ 11:11 AM

new principalWhen 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.”

Touching base
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.

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Topics: Educational Leadership, Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, educational leaders, Parent Engagement, Role of Principal in School, new principal, parent partnerships

Principal Podcasts: a free and timely way to connect with parents

Posted on Thu, Jul 04, 2013 @ 06:07 AM

connect with parentsWe know it is imperative that we frequently—and openly—connect with parents, but how do we do it? There’s the monthly edition of the school newsletter, of course, where you may have a column in which you share your musings, updates and reminders—but we’ve never felt like this is communication at its finest.

The problems with print newsletters are clear:

  • They are impersonal (parents can’t hear you)
  • They aren’t always timely (most newsletters come once a month)
  • They cost money to print and mail
  • 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

Principal Podcasts: a simple, free and timely way to connect with parents

As an alternative to the newsletter, we’ve started creating two or three minute podcasts, audio recordings that parents receive every Friday in their email box. Our podcasts are conversational: In addition to the usual updates and reminders you might find in a newsletter, we’ve featured short interviews with student athletes, coaches, our thespian students and teachers. Once we’re done, we simply embed the recording onto our Facebook page, website or school blog and email a link to the parents who have requested to receive notifications.

Before app technology, users relied on recording software like Audacity or Garage Band to create podcasts. While these programs will give you more flexibility, you might want to start off by using one of these three apps:

connect with parents 2Audio Boo allows you to record up to three minutes of audio—any longer than three minutes would bore listeners anyway—and post it to your own account on the web. You can add titles, tags, geolocation info and a photo to the recording before you upload it to your blog or favorite social networking platform. The app is free.

connect-with-parentsIf you have an iPhone or an iPad and a WordPress website, Mobile Podcaster will work for you. The app costs $2.99 and allows you to record up to 15 minutes of audio.

connect-with-parentsiPadio is a free app that allows you to record up to 60 minutes of audio and then add titles, descriptions and images. Once you’re finished, select an embed code and simply copy and paste it to your personal blog or favorite social-media site.

If you’re looking for more ways to connect with parents, you might be interested in a few of our other blogs, Retire the school newsletter. Start a school blogSocial networking and education: reaching parents, all of them, and Parent-Community Education Programs Impact Student Achievement.

 

 

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Topics: Educational Leadership Degree, Educational Leadership Master's Programs, effective principal, Parent Engagement, Best Apps for Educators, Becoming an effective principal, parent partnerships, parents, podcasts

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