In my years as an elementary school teacher and principal, I have seen first-hand how crucial the relationships are between parents and their child’s teachers. Positive parent-teacher interactions and strong communication ensure that a student will continue to grow in their social and academic skills over the course of a school year. But this type of parent-teacher rapport is something that isn’t typically established in one open house meeting at the beginning of the year or one email exchange introducing yourself. Like any other healthy relationship, teacher-parent rapport takes time and intentionality to build. There are three key behaviors that parents can engage in to build this rapport, summed up with the acronym O.N.E. These elements provide a framework for teachers and parents to come together, partnering to accomplish one unified goal in a given school year: the continued holistic growth of the student.
Open the Lines of Communication
Clear, consistent communication is the most basic foundation for building a positive relationship between a teacher and parents. It serves to boost the confidence of both teachers and parents and helps to establish a sense of trust that both parties are seen and heard. Communication between teachers and parents is especially important in those earliest years of school as young students adjust to the rhythms of school and may not yet be capable of precise communication about important school-related topics or events.
It’s important to keep in mind that the timing and quality of communication between parents and teachers matter more than the quantity. While regular communication is healthy, it is typically not necessary for there to be daily communication between parents and teachers. It is also a good idea, at the beginning of a school year, to make some initial contact with your child’s teacher via an open house or quick introductory email, and then allow for some time for students and teachers to get settled into the school year.
Notify of Needs
As previously mentioned, a healthy way to start the school year is by establishing initial contact with your child’s teacher. This initial contact is a great first step in establishing a connection with your child’s teacher, and it is helpful to communicate any immediate needs your child may have (food allergies, specific learning needs, etc.) at that time. As the school year progresses, additional questions, concerns, or needs may arise, and it is crucial for parents and teachers to notify each other when this happens. In my experience, teachers appreciate when parents come to them directly to discuss needs. This allows for collaborative problem-solving.
There are typically set times for parents and teachers to connect and discuss a student’s needs (open house, parent-teacher conferences), but it is typically also possible to schedule some one-on-one time between parents and teachers if that would be helpful for a particular need or situation. While emails and phone calls are effective for some notifications and communications, more nuanced or sensitive conversations may be better navigated in face-to-face interaction.
A third critical element of building and maintaining positive parent-teacher rapport—and perhaps one that is sometimes overlooked--is both parties continuously extending grace to each other. There are times when difficult situations surface in a school year, socially, academically, or otherwise. A child comes home with a bad grade. A student is really struggling with a particular concept. A child is experiencing difficulty in social interactions or classroom behavior. There are various factors and common occurrences that can contribute to potential tension or strain in a parent-teacher relationship. In situations like these, it may be tempting to withdraw from parent-teacher communication and/or talk with others (friends, fellow parents) rather than directly communicating with the parent or teacher, but I’ve witnessed these as unhealthy responses in difficult situations. Oftentimes, difficult situations are the result of misunderstandings and/or misinformation, and can be navigated well through clear, consistent communication and notifying of needs. In the midst of navigating such a circumstance, extending grace to one another is paramount. Giving the benefit of the doubt to all parties involved can go a long way in resolving issues and continuing to move toward that unified goal of student growth.