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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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What Families Need and Want

When we looked at the last article, What Children Need and Want from a classroom, it made me think about what families of children need and want from their classroom and the teacher. If you are teaching young children, this could very well be the first time families are leaving their child. Each family is entrusting their child in your care. They have faith that you are teaching and helping their child develop and succeed the best way you know how. This is a huge responsibility that should be taken very seriously.

During this time of need, where there is so much uncertainty, thinking about the families and what they need is more valuable than ever!

What do families need and want:

  1. A caring professional: Families want to know, first, that you care about their child’s well-being. They want someone that is going to treat their child well and then that knows how to teach. Have a meet-your-teacher night/back-to-school night (first impressions are vital). Send a welcome postcard that begins building that relationship before they even enter your classroom. Give out a parent questionnaire that allows them to express their needs, wants, and ideas.
  2. A reciprocal relationship where they can express their ideas, opinions, and concerns.
  3. Family Forums are made for families to learn about different topics, ideas, and things that are happening in the classroom. You can also bring in outside speakers from the community that can provide ideas and resources to your families.
  4. Someone that is knowledgeable: Families want to know that you know how and what to teach. It is important that you know the best strategies to help their child learn and how to keep them engaged.
  5. A warm and engaging environment can also include an online environment. When families walk into your room for the first time, what are they seeing? They want to see a place where their child has a spot, where their name is around the room, it is bright, fun, and engaging, and where there are different areas like (carpet time, centers, outside areas, technology, etc.). This is also a time to incorporate themes and topics that include the students’ background knowledge and interest into your curriculum (shows you care and you know your students).
  6. A daily schedule, they want to know and understand what your day will consist of.
  7. Notes/folder home: explaining behavior that day, fundraisers, anything they need to know that is important; it is a way of daily communication.
  8. Welcome note/packet with all of the important things they will need to know all year.
  9. What’s happening all week long? This type of note gives your family ideas of what you are planning and what they should plan for.
  10. Open door policy where families can come in and observe, interact, etc. Communication is the best way to build relationships. This can also happen online, depending on how your day is scheduled. 
  11. Special days that families can be involved in (field trips, muffins with moms, donuts with dads, tea with grandparents, family day, picnics, carnival nights, etc.). Or just invite them to sit in on your class. This can mean in person or online.
  12. Social Media (blogs, websites, etc.) allow families to follow the progress or topics in ECE.
  13. Electronic portfolios that they can take a peek at, newsletters, and bulletin boards that they can get online and see. This should be in conjunction with notes home.
  14. Calls home: Calls home for positive things. Make a calendar of when you will call home to give families positive feedback about their child. This makes them more receptive of all information you give them.
  15. Family homework or resources: I am not in favor of homework when families can’t help their child (time constraints, not willing, not educated, etc.). But when a family can find fun things to do together (cook, go for a walk, play a game), I think this builds a family relationship among members of the family.

There are still some that are not attending school in person, and that is ok. We have to be open and honest and know that families still need our support. You, as the teacher, and the family, as the child’s advocate, are doing great---don’t forget that!

This article gives a few ideas of what families look for as they meet the new teacher that their child will learn from. Out of the 15 listed items, what are you already doing to help involve families? What would you like to try now? I challenge you to find at least one thing to incorporate into your environment as soon as you can. It’s all about including families and having fun; learning and building relationships can be fun.