As summer vacation draws to a close, teachers are busy preparing classrooms, adding finishing touches to the years’ curriculum, and making the annual pilgrimage to buy supplies.

Teachers want their students to feel welcome from Day 1 with desks, chairs and textbooks.

Most teachers I know also have a less talked-about wish; one that can make or break the school year. They hope to have supportive families who are eager to partner in their child’s learning.

When your kids come home from school, will they still be in an environment that helps them learn? Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

I have heard countless stories of how parent involvement has either helped or hindered student progress. Teachers sing praises of parents who go the extra mile to work together with them to help their child progress in school. Conversely, they tell of being ignored, questioned, and even harassed by uncooperative parents.

Because parent support is an essential ingredient to a successful school year, teachers employ a variety of strategies to build positive relationships with students’ families.

A classic way to start is open house night. This is a great way for parents to learn about classroom procedures and homework policies, and to get to know their child’s teacher.

Many teachers make it a priority to get to reach out to parents at the beginning of each school year, compiling an email list so they can keep in touch.  I know one middle school teacher who carves out time to make a personal phone call to the parents of each of his 90 students as the year starts.

With the use of virtual platforms on the rise, many teachers opt to create classroom websites as a way to invite parents into the learning going on during the school day. Commonly used platforms include Shutterfly, Seesaw and Google classroom. Photos and videos posted on classroom websites help families better understand what their child is learning and creating throughout the day.

Some teachers include a classroom blog to generate discussion. Routinely checking and asking students about a classroom blog topic is terrific way for parents to stay involved.

Some teachers send home a parent talent survey so they can invite parents to share their expertise in the classroom when it aligns to the content being studied. After learning from a survey that a parent was a lawyer, one teacher I know invited that parent to conduct a mock trial to help students learn about the judicial system.

Homework assignments are another way that teachers invite families to partner in learning. One teacher includes a “Dinner Discussion” topic as a part of her fourth-graders’ weekly homework packets to carry over a classroom discussion into the home setting. Another includes a section called “Home Helper” in which the student is asked to do something helpful at home, with the completed task confirmed by a paren’t signature.

Including families as partners in their child’s education is beneficial for the whole school community. Parents who feel connected to the classroom have positive feelings toward the school and are more likely to give back by volunteering, donating or being a member of a Parent Teacher Organization. The positive attitude trickles down to their children, making them more likely to be invested in school activities as well.

While many teachers are eager to invite families to be partners in learning, some express reservations.

One teacher said putting classroom information online which had the unexpected result of some parents attempting to make changes to her curriculum. Another expressed frustration that some parents don’t respond to her emails. Yet another was annoyed when parents would repeatedly ask questions that had already been answered on the classroom website.

Despite the challenges, it is imperative that families and teachers work together. While all teachers are unique and what works for one may not work for another, one thing is certain: Parents and teachers are better when working together.

As I finish up my preparations, I’m hoping to build new partnerships in the upcoming school year.

Parents, come to the open house, read teacher emails and check the classroom website regularly. Let’s do this together.

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