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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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Speedy Service!

I am going to share with you the best advice I can give for creating good rapport with the parents of your students. It comes down to five simple words.


Thats right. If they call you, do everything you can to return their phone call that business day, even if it means calling them in the car on the way home, in between bites of your sandwich or during your planning period. If they send you an e-mail asking a question about their child, reply immediately. If you dont have the answer handy, tell them you got their message, and that you will get them an answer as quickly as possible-then do it.

This one approach can transform your relationship with parents. Heres why: For most parents, after meeting you at open house, their only point of contact with you will be via telephone or e-mail. Unless the parent is a volunteer, he or she is not in your classroom on a daily basis to see how hard you work to teach their child. All they have to go on is the image of some adult on the other end of the line, and if that person is slow to get back to them, unclear or unwilling to provide information, or worse, rude, that is what the parent uses to develop their perception of you.

Not long ago, I tried unsuccessfully to reach one of my childrens teachers. I sent e-mails, left a message with the front officeall the while growing impatient. Immediately, I began ask myself: what kind of teacher doesnt get back to the parent? I would never conduct myself like this! At that moment, I was not focusing on all the wonderful things this person has done for my child, only that I couldnt get the answers I wanted. (The problem, I later learned, resulted from my cell phone not showing a missed call and the teachers e-mail system being down. We later got in touch, and the teacher has been great to work with).

Providing speedy communication is essential to developing strong relationships with parents, but how do we accomplish this goal when time is limited? Here are some tips:

  • Use e-mail. It may seem impersonal, but e-mail has been a blessing for me when it comes to providing quick responses to parents. I can easily get back to them without having huge chunks of time taken away from additional questions and conversations. I tell parents that if an issue is more serious, they can always request a phone call or meeting. (Of course, I ask them to make that request via e-mail : )
  • Working lunch. I know that some teachers like to eat together and use lunch as their time to relax, however, this downtime can be used to make quick calls back to parents or check e-mail. Perhaps you can limit your working lunch to once or twice a week, this way, you still have some quiet time.
  • Ask for help finding answers. If I dont know the answer to a question, I tell parents that I will find the information. I then copy the parent in an e-mail to the person at the school, who I think can help.
  • Call from the car. Returning calls from the car while driving home, heading to the gym, or to your childs sporting event, can be a good way to use your time. This way, you dont have to remain in the classroom later and wont be late for other appointments.
  • Be proactive. Send in advance information to parents that you think they want to know and thus avoid having to provide that information later. At the start of each week, I send an e-mail newsletter to my parents, outlining the weeks academic goals, homework and other announcements.

Well, there you have it. Those are some of the simple, yet effective, tricks I use to maintain strong parent communication. Remember, the goal is to get back to them quickly! Please join the Innovative Teaching group athttp://community.educationworld.comcontent/speedy-service?gid=NTEyMQ== and share your thoughts and ideas on parent communication.