Speaking to parents terrified me for years…like sick to my stomach, mad anxiety, terrified. I dreaded the thought of parents being upset with me or dealing with those particularly difficult parents. Thankfully, I had the opportunity to teach with THE Lindsey Driver. Not only is she one of the most amazing math teachers on the planet, she is also so, so good at relationships and people. These tips will change the way you view parent teacher conferences and help you to create positive parent relationships.
Guest Blogger- Lindsey Driver
Hey! My name is Lindsey Driver and I’m about to start my 12th year of teaching. I’ve taught 5th-8thgrade math at title one and not so title one schools. When Staton asked me if I would write for her blog, my first thought was, “WHY?” Alas, when Staton asks you to do something, you do it because she creates amazing classroom communities with engaging learning activities and she makes people around her better.
Do you want to know what will make your year less stressful and keep you out of the wrinkle cream aisle longer? Building relationships with parents. I can guarantee being on a team with parents is a lot easier than not. Here are my top tips for building relationships with parents.
The Basic Duhs
1. Always use the positivity sandwich when speaking to parents about anything. Even if it’s informing them about a change in schedule or if the lunch menu has a new entree.
2. First contact after the initial introduction should not be a general letter that everyone receives. It should be positive, genuine, and individual to the student.
3. Always respond to parent communication. ALWAYS. This seems silly to even type, but I wouldn’t be typing it, if I didn’t see it occur. This would be a great time to use that positivity sandwich and individualized information!
THE GAME CHANGER- This one requires a backstory
Backstory: When I was pregnant, my OB always acted like my son’s heartbeat was the greatest heartbeat that she had ever heard. I thought about that constantly and I’ll never forget that feeling.
Pregnancy Hormone Stupor: How is that even possible? She’s delivered hundreds of babies. How could MY son have the BEST heartbeat?
Back to Reality: My son did not have the best heartbeat. She just knew how important it was for us to be on a team. She knew I was anxious and coming up with every possible scenario in my head. She knew that I was trusting her with my most important asset. Her ability to make me feel like I was important and that MY CHILD had the sweetest and strongest heartbeat, changed the way I looked at “Meet the Teacher Night” forever.
4. When you first meet a student, you need to be excited. You need to act like this is the greatest kid and family that you have ever met. Why? Because parents are sending you the best they’ve got. That kiddo is a literal extension of themselves and they want to know that YOU WANT their kid to be there. They want to see it. They need to see it. They are trusting you to love and cherish their kiddo in their absence. So, be excited when you meet your kids!
THE DRIVER SECRET THAT I USE BECAUSE I’M DRIVER AND I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PERFECTION PODIUM BECAUSE I’M TOO CHAOTIC TO EVER GET THERE ANYWAY. I JUST CARE ABOUT THE IMPACT I LEAVE ON KIDS AND THEIR CARETAKERS. #knowyourstrengths
What I’m about to tell you is controversial advice and has gotten some heat in recent years, but…I apologize.
5. When a parent is upset or if something goes wrong, I find something to apologize for. I don’t care if it’s my fault or someone else’s fault. I only get 183 days with my kids each year and I don’t have time to waste. My goal is to always find a resolution so that I can get back to saving math lives. I don’t care about being right or standing my ground about something that will not affect me a year from now. I don’t think I’m losing anything by apologizing. I feel like I’m choosing my battles which is empowering. So, don’t fight every battle you get invited to. You’ve got lives to impact, and you will need that energy for that amazing lesson that actually works during the first class or that other lesson that doesn’t work out until the end of the day. #yourlessonisamazing #guineapigclassesareokay
The End is Near
I think sometimes we can get so caught up in the data and the standards and the dismissal changes and the missing assignments and the assessments and the hallway lines and the grading and the documenting and everything else that makes teaching robotic. The kicker here is that parents are people with feelings. They just want the best for their kids. Remember, they send you the best they’ve got to send. They aren’t keeping the perfect one at home all for themselves. (Please, for all that is good in this world, use the INDIVIDUALIZED positivity sandwich. PLEASE.) When parents know that you care, they are going to give you the benefit of the doubt. They will know that you aren’t fighting against them or their child, but with them in order to help their child succeed.
I could go on and on about why it’s important to make parents feel accepted in your classroom and about why showing empathy changes even the roughest relationships. That might have to be another blog post.
Mic drop. If you don’t already, go follow Lindsey on instagram and teachers pay teachers. I promise she will be dropping knowledge truth bombs all year long, so you won’t want to miss it! Click here to learn about one of the ways I start to create positive relationships with students and parents at the beginning of the year.
My wonderfully talented friend, Jerilyn at Counting on Curry created this beautiful graphic that you can hang up behind your desk and use as a reminder all year! It’s going to be an amazing school year!