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Dr. Tisha Shipley has been in education for over 23 years. She has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, Gifted and Talented 3rd-6th Grades, Dr. Shipley was an elementary principal, a cheer coach, and was on...
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Building Relationships With Families

In this article, I would like to explain how to build relationships throughout the year. As teachers, we want families to be involved, and it is never too late to start building relationships. What can you do at the beginning of the year, the middle of the year, and even the end of the year to be more welcoming to the families in your classroom?

Here are a few ideas:

Building Relationships from the Beginning:

Postcards: These can be sent home before school begins. Snail mail is becoming a thing of the past, but we all love to get something fun in the mail----including the families you will be working with.

Welcome Phone Call: This call should be made as soon as you get your class roster. This phone call is to welcome them to your classroom, to get to know them, and share a bit about yourself. This call is more personal in nature; you can even share about your family, your hobbies, and things you may have in common with the family. Also, ask them questions, get to know who they are, and build that trust and reciprocal relationship. This is also a time to use empathetic listening.

Home visits: This must be in line with your school policy, as you would not want to go against the rules and regulations of your district. If you are able to visit the student's home, make sure you call ahead and make sure it is ok to visit, some may not want to open their home up. If you are able, take a little welcome gift with you (a coloring book, a book they can read, a book about yourself and your classroom that you have made, etc.).

Back to School Night: Oftentimes, this is set up by the school, and each classroom participates. This is a time to invite your families into the classroom to explore, ask questions, and learn where their child will be every day. You can also provide them with a back-to-school packet and the resources you want them to have. First impressions last the entire school year, so be organized and prepared with a welcoming environment.

Classroom Picnic and Movie: This is something that is fun to do about a month after school starts. Again, this will help you to get to know your families and see how they interact with their child.

Attend Activities: Attend that birthday party, soccer game, or music concert you were invited to. This not only makes the child happy, but the family will look at you differently, too. This also gives you the opportunity to see the child in their natural habitat.

Why is it Important to Build relationships?

Parent satisfaction: You want families to be happy and feel comfortable about sending their child to your classroom every day. When you have parents on your side, then the child succeeds.

Child’s success: Children will succeed if they know you and their family are on the same page. Children can see a good relationship when the teacher and family visit and problem-solve. Children see more than we think.

Trust: Families need to trust that we have their child’s best interest at heart and that we want the same thing they want---the best for their child. To have trust, though, you must build trust. You have to try many different things before you find what may work.

Life Long Friends: Families become a part of your life. After you get to know them, you attend their child’s activities, and you show you care, you become friends. This is something special.

How to Involve Your Families Throughout the Year

Family Learning Bags: Themed learning bags are not homework; they are something that allows the family time together. They are optional, and they are fun. A teacher that encourages family time is usually someone that respects a family and will promote family time over academic learning.

Special School Projects (cooking in the classroom, field trips, special days): These are times when you invite families to help. This is not mandatory, and most families are thrilled to be invited!

Newsletters: this is a way to communicate, and you can make it fun. For example, Fun, Fantastic, Friday Newsletter. This could be something that simply keeps families up to date on what happened that week. They will appreciate it and even look forward to it. Make it special and add pictures. You can even make virtual online newsletters for those that choose to read it that way.

Weekly Phone Calls: Each week, pick a family to call and tell them all the great things you can about their child. These types of calls are always welcome and show you as a positive and caring teacher that really knows their child. These phone calls also make it easier when a tough phone call may be needed at a later date.

Other Resources for Building relationships with families: 

20 Fun Ideas to Partner with Families

5 Ways to Build Strong Relationships with Families