Sharp new pencils, neon pocket folders, shiny pink erasers, a new backpack with a working zipper… it can only mean one thing. Back to school season is upon us! I know we spend a good chunk of our summer preparing our classrooms, but today I want to focus on how we prepare ourselves to partner with parents. A supportive relationship with your students’ parents can make or break your year, so it’s important to get things off on the right foot. Here are my top three tips for doing just that.
Reach out to your students and their families as soon as possible. I like to send send postcards home as soon as class lists are final to begin building that relationship before school starts. I also make coordinating contact cards for the parents. You can print these on card stock, but I actually love printing them on magnets. I have a simple pattern here if you need one, but Vista Print has tons of great options too. Their templates make creating something of your own super quick and easy.
Plan an open house before school starts. I’ve tried a variety of formats throughout the years, but my favorite first contact is an open house shortly before school starts. It allows families to come and go at times that work best for them, and I’m able to chat with parents more this way too. When we scheduled a formal presentation everyone arrived and left at the same time, which always resulted in a long line to talk to me at the end.
We also tried an open house a few days after school started, but parents often skipped it because school was already in session. I like having it before school starts gives students a chance to visit the classroom, drop off school supplies, and get rid of some of those first day jitters. I tried very hard to stand at the door and welcome each student by name. How did I know their names? I studied their cumulative files with school pictures inside.
During the open house, I prepared a short scavenger hunt for the students and their families. It encouraged students to move around the room, explore, and start to get acquainted with their new home for the year. There was also a stop for parents to pick up important classroom information.
I loved this little assignment because it gave me some insight into my students’ personalities. Which students eagerly tackled the task? Which ones held back? Who didn’t do it at all? Which parents did the scavenger hunt instead of the students? Did some students naturally team up to work together? Who took the lead? When they turned in the scavenger hunt at the end, it also gave me a quick writing sample. You can see an example of my scavenger hunt here to give you some ideas.
Finally, it’s important to keep the relationship you’ve established with your parents going throughout the year. I send personal notes home with each student every Friday. A simple comment like, “Ask Sarah what she learned about nonfiction this week!” or “Matthew’s penguin report is in his Friday Folder. I’m so proud of his writing!” can go a long way. It helps start conversations at home and shows parents that I’m personally invested in their children. Occasionally if it wasn’t such a great week, this is also a chance to communicate (and document) that. Parents sign the notes and return them on Monday, after looking through the work for the week.
I also keep parents involved through monthly newsletters and calendars. I like to send paper copies home, as well as post them on our classroom website, to accommodate everyone. I created a newsletter template for each month, so sitting down to write them each month was a snap. I’d recap the previous month, share what we’d be studying next, and highlight any upcoming classroom/school events too. My goal is always for parents to know what we’re learning so they can build on it at home too.
If you want to save yourself time, you can purchase my editable classroom newsletter and calendar templates in my TeachersPayTeachers shop. They come in a variety of themes, so chances are one will match your classroom theme. I’m personally loving the Bold and Bright set this year.
I hope these tips help you make this year the best school year yet! As a thank you for all that you do for your students, be sure to enter to win one of my $25 TpT gift cards. Goodluck!