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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Parent Power

In my experience~ parents can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

As a teacher~ it really comes down to how you deal with them~ particularly in how you communicate with them and respond when they have questions or concerns.

I never understood when colleagues created an us against them type of situation with parents. Dont get me wrong. Ive had those parents that make you want to quit the profession. You know the ones that drive you up the wall~ expecting miracles and insisting they could do a better job~ though they have never taught a day in their life.

Regardless~ you still have to train yourself to make parents your allies~ even the difficult ones~ if you want to accomplish your educational goals.

Right now~ I am in the midst of creating a new enrichment cluster program at the school where I work. Before the school day begins~ higher-level students~ such as those in the gifted program~ will have the opportunity to join a LEGO/robotics team~ a journalism society~ a yoga class~ and other clubsall due to one reason: parent volunteers.

The parents of these students have been generous enough to donate their time to make this program happen.

And its not the first time. For the last two months~ this same group of dedicated parents coached a team of fourth and fifth grade students for the countys Math Bowl competition.

Its easy to see how harnessing the force of parents at your school can create new and exciting opportunities for students. Now~ lets get down to some specific steps you can take to develop the kind of rapport that enables you to assemble a team of supportive parents.


I dont mean baby-sit them. What I mean is make sure you do everything possible to educate their children. Provide them with the best lessons possible~ the best environment you can provide~ the most opportunity. Be fair and reasonable with their kiddos. If you show that you are 100 percent for making their children successful~ parents will want to support you in return.


Always keep your parents in the loop. Make them feel part of the team. Send home newsletters~ e-mail them about their childs progress~ stop in the hallways and chat with them. Let them know about everything going on in the classroom. You will never win parents over by being mysterious or short-winded with them.


Whenever they do something for your classroom~ thank them. No matter how big or small~ tell them you appreciate their help and support. Send home a thank-you card. E-mail them. Feature them in school newsletters. You may not be able to pay parents with money~ but you can reward them with praise and acknowledgement.


Dont be afraid to ask parents to help coach a new program or chaperone a field trip. Parents often like to volunteer~ but they wont know how they can help unless you tell them. Include volunteer opportunities in e-mails and newsletters. One warning: dont expect too much of parents. You dont want to burn them out. Recently~ I had a parent volunteer to take a Math Bowl team to the event in her van. Five~ excited fifth-graders piled inher van~ stopping at Burger King for lunch. I did not ask her to take another team the next week~ knowing that I would be expecting too much.

Learn to harness the power of positive parents~ and you can accomplish much more than you can achieve by working alone. Make them your ally by giving their children your best~ communicating effectively and asking for help. To express your views on this topic~ please visit the Innovative Teaching blog athttp://community.educationworld.comcontent/parent-power-0?gid=NTEyMQ==

Wishing you success~

Steve Haberlin