The first day at school – teachers looking forward to meeting their new charges, children nervous but excited – and parents? Parents are probably apprehensive, nervous, and hopeful. Letting their precious children go into the care of a stranger is a huge step for parents, they have a desperate need to be respected – after all they know their child better than this new adult.
When teachers and parents work together, when they communicate and share experiences then the child feels safe and cared for. Teachers and parents both bring their own expertise into educating the children, both have value and both want the child to do well. When the children know that their parents feel the teacher can be trusted then they can focus on school activities, grow, and learn. When the teacher knows that the parent respects them they will find it so much easier to gain the trust and respect of the child – which makes the whole learning experience exciting and stimulating.
A further benefit when parents and teachers cooperate is that children see how adults work together to achieve their goals. The important people in their lives interact and the child sees how to build healthy relationships and learns how important they are. When teachers and parents work together they can decide on priorities and if necessary adjust plans to suit the child.
Teachers and parents co-operate
Parent-teacher partnership in early education makes that important first step into the wider world feel safer and more positive for the child. Once they know that their parents trust the teacher, and can tell them if there are worries or problems then it is easier to let go and join the wider world. Parents also feel safer when they know that they can speak to the teacher They can follow their child’s progress and if any problems should arise they can nip them in the bud before they become a serious source of concern.
When teachers are aware of the child’s background they can be sensitive to their needs. Sometimes even quite young children have to take on the role of carer at home, and schools need to provide extra support or find a way to access it for the children in the adult world we live in.
Teachers are busy people and they have many children to look after. They can’t cope with every parent coming not the classroom and possibly disrupting the lessons or taking up time that the teacher needs for preparing lessons, a queue of anxious parents all coming in at any old time is not the best way to communicate. Of course, there must be some way a parent or teacher can quickly communicate with each other in an urgent situation and nothing eats fact to face meetings but there are also many other ways other than face to face communication which can be used.
What factors are important in parent-teacher partnerships?
It helps to decide what you want from this from both the parent’s and the teacher’s point of view. Here are some suggestions that you may like to consider:
- There should be opportunities for parents to participate in the child’s education
- It is not the teacher’s remit to judge parents! Parents are the experts in that particular child.
- Parents should be able to respect the teacher’s expertise and also their workload in helping all the children in their class or school.
- It’s good to know the teacher’s name – but it’s also good to know the name of the parents – we respond to our names they are precious to us.
- Parents need positive feedback there is usually something good to say about a child, even if you have to dig deep to find it. Used well, feedback means learning.
- Parents want information – what is little Johnnie doing all day away from me? What is he learning about, how can we help him at home?
- Parents want to be involved. They may allow their child to look after school pets or even foster one during the holidays.
Available outside resources
Schools often know about other outside resources that parents might like to access. They will have lists of local library with opening hours, children’s story groups, community centers, and sports halls, family outreach groups, or home tutors the list of resources can be invaluable to parents, especially those who might be new to the area, or just coming out of hibernation after having their first child. This sharing of knowledge or the resources available gives power to parents, and enhances the community in which you live.
But now let’s look at some ways parents can be kept up to date on what happens in school. None of these are of much use unless the parents know what to expect and how to use the services. So at the start of the school year, every parent needs a leaflet or brochure explaining what methods of communication there are and how they work. Some parents may not have access to some of the pathways the teacher intends to use – and when the teacher is aware of this they can make alternative arrangements.
Ways to communicate in the parent-teacher partnership
Face to face
There is nothing so effective as face to face contact. You learn so much by subliminal cues. Teacher/parent evenings are popular with parents although they can be exhausting for the teachers. But parents look forward to meeting the teacher and if set times are arranged then everybody can get their chance to talk with each other. And it’s not just the parent who might be worried about their child, it also gives the teacher a chance to explore their concerns.
Parent-teacher associations (PTAs) provide another direct contact method and PTAs can be a way to address concerns for parents as well as giving out information and discussing how things are going and the ways forward for the school.
Everyone looks forward to the school play! Parents love to see their little one on the stage and teachers can showcase their expertise and endurance on these occasions. For the children, starring in a school play can be a milestone in their school career, something to look back on with pride.
Technology can assist but not replace human contact – so here are some ways school communicate with parents:
Simple, quick, and easy to use the telephone is often the first port of call for the anxious parent or worries teacher. The school needs to make sure that parents know which number to call – there might be different ones for different personal especially in a large school – and parents are responsible for making sure the school has their up to date number it sounds so basic but telephone numbers may be hard to find in an emergency – and the school number should be easy of access whether for mobile or landlines.
Many schools have blogs. They are a great way to share information about not only the practical day to day activities but also the ethics of the school.
Some blogs are like a window into the classroom. Parents love them. When they ask their child what they did at school that day, quite often the child responds “nothing”. But the blog gives parents a handle on what to ask and shows the child that they are interested and informed.
Blogs can be interactive and dynamic. There can be a comments section, a question part or there could be a chance for parents to contribute a blog themselves. Sometimes the children can contribute directly, as can parents.
Blogs give the school a voice, a chance to showcase their thoughts on teaching, to let parents know the important dates coming up, school trips, sports days, and so much more. And after the events parents love to see pictures of what their children were up to. It can be almost like a family album with an upbeat and positive tone. The blogs are a dynamic addition to the usual school website which is often fairly static.
Many schools have their own web site. This has information about the staff, about school policy and the contact details. In general, this stays much the same with few changes – but the blogs give life to the website.
Newsletters, social media, and podcasts
The newsletter can be email or snail mail, but email saves on postage and stationery. Parents can reply with ease and quickly.
Many parents use social media and schools are picking it up, too. Parents can show their youngsters snippets on the website, but one needs to be aware of possible misuse of this tool. Confidentiality is of enormous importance. Since most social media sites have a lower age limit of 13, this is for parents and teachers to publish material.
Radio or Podcasts video and voice apps
Radio or podcasts let the teacher speak directly to parents. Apps such as Anchor.fm (a free app) can be used to make the podcasts. Children enjoy making their own podcasts and in so doing they learn new skills such as collaboration, solving problems, and project management.
Radio or podcasts can be simple in-house affairs or by joining with the local radio station it can become a professional – and an exciting project for the children.
Video is becoming increasingly popular – and it’s becoming easier to produce. The school can even publish the video on sites like YouTube. Once the recording is made can be embedded on the school website or in the blogs. For the young child, the teacher will be doing most of the work but the rewards as the children see themselves as stars are huge. Maybe there are parents who could take on some of the recording responsibilities.
Voice tools are another possible way to communicate – and parents can listen to a voice recording on the go, at a time that is convenient for them. There are many apps on the market that are popular for voice communication can, therefore, be adapted for home-school communication. Apps such as Voxer can be adapted for teacher-parent communication. You can even record your voice in Voxer and email it to parents.
Many apps are designed specifically for school use, and they are easy to use and increasingly popular as people realize their potential. Some can translate into different languages which might be a boon where children’s and parent’s first language is different from the classroom language.
Apps like Seesaw (very useful at the primary school level), Remind (to remind you to share news) and ClassDojo (making communication fun with a points system) are just three examples of apps available
Parent-teacher partnership in early childhood education is essential for the proper development and wellbeing of the child. Good communication sets the children’s minds at rest so they can concentrate on learning. It helps the teacher know more about the child and parents feel respected and can be a part of their child’s education. They are not “giving away” their special child.
While nothing can replace face to face meetings there are a number of technical ways to enhance parent-teacher communication. These include the school website, blogs, and written information such as newsletters, voice tools, and podcasts which are becoming more common and easier to use together with various apps specially designed for school use.
It’s vital that parents know the way to expect how teachers intend to communicate and that they have access to the technology required. Good and effective parent-teacher partnership in early childhood will benefit the teacher, the parents, and the child, helping the parent to be involved in the education of their offspring and allowing the child to feel safe at school, and able to relax and learn.
The first day at school can be traumatic for parents as well as for children, but if they can be reassured that the teachers will be in touch then they too can relax a little. These early years are exciting times for building strong parent-teacher partnerships that help the children thrive.
book: Extending Thought in Young Children: A Parent-Teacher Partnership
by Chris Athey | 28 Sep 1991 ISBN – 1-85396-118-3