Getting parents to engage with you a middle school classroom is not an easy feat. You’re not teaching dewy eyed kindergartners whose parents are as likely to cry at drop off time as the kids are. You’ve got a room full of almost teenagers whose number one goal is to keep their parents out of their business. We’ve got some quick tips for keeping parents in the loop but out of your hair!
There are lots of apps now that can help you get in touch with parents quickly and impersonally. If your school or board uses Google Apps for education GET ON BOARD. Google classroom allows you to connect parent email’s and will send them an update on their child’s progress as often as they want. This way YOU don’t have to always be the bearer of bad news and mom and dad will know that Billy didn’t hand in his assignment without you making a phone call every other day. Remind will let you send generalized announcements or personalized messages to parents either by text or email, without giving away anyone’s personal contact information. Parents love getting these updates and seeing what their child is working on, cause we all know Billy goes home and tells his folks he does nothing all day.
Calling parents is the worst. I legitimately hate doing it, but it is SO much easier to make a not so great phone call home if you’ve already made one telling mom that Sally is SUCH wonderful writer and you were so impressed with her paragraph explaining why her summer was the BEST SUMMER EVER! Don’t underestimate the power of building positive rapport with parents. If they think you like their kid they are 100% more likely to listen when you have concerns. If you can try to get in touch with every family during the first week of school. It’s a ton of time and energy but I promise it will pay off.
Sell Meet the Teacher Night
Sell it hard. Get the kids to give their input on what they think their families should know about school and their new class. Send home reminders on all that technology you’ve gotten rolling and mention it on all those sunshine calls. Tell the kids there’ll be doughnuts, but they can only have one if their parents come (kidding). The more parents you can get into your room the better! Meet the teacher night gives you a chance to outline your teaching style and let parents know what your expectations are for their kids. Will there be tons of homework, or not? Can they have their technology with them at school or should it stay at home ( good luck with that…)? If parents know and their kids aren’t meeting expectations later, there won’t be any ugly surprises.
Get to Know Them
One of my first projects every year is a self and family history mini project. Find out where your kids are from and force them to spend some quality time with their folks. Their parents will appreciate that you care enough about their kid and their family to find out the details and it will give you a great picture of what life is like at home for your students, and what their values are.*
*There are some schools and some demographics where this could be very hard and very sad. There are lots of kids and families who are struggling with serious issues, be careful and be kind. If you are getting serious push back on this now is NOT the time to force it.