by Sue Nelle DeHart

When working with your students’ parents, certain steps make communication smoother thus allowing for more educational effectiveness.

1.   It is important when working with parents not to think of them as a single group but as distinct subgroups. For example:

  • Career-oriented/too busy (these are parents who respond well to social media)
  • Very involved
  • Single parents
  • Immigrant parents
  • Parents with overwhelming personal issues
  • Surrogate parents (more than eight million children are being raised by
  • grandparents)
  • Children who are their own parents (this may involve parents who are mentally or physically ill, incarcerated, struggling with addiction, etc.)

Many discipline problems come from those students whose parents have overwhelming personal issues and students who function as their own parents. These students desperately need relationships with adults that are long term and stable.

It is unrealistic to treat parents as one group. The needs and issues are very different. In your campus plan, identify specific ways you will target each group.

2.    It is important that we listen to parents. We must really understand what they are telling us and where they are coming from instead of trying to make them understand our position.

3.    We need to remember that our parents are very good at reading non-verbals. If the words coming out of our mouths are not congruent with our body language, they will not trust us.

4.    Remember that parents do not like to be surprised about their children’s poor grades on their report cards. If we let parents know about how the students stand three weeks into the grading period, they have time to help their children bring their grades up.

Working with Parents InfoWe, as parents, don’t like for our children to get grades like 78 or 89 on their report cards. We think, Isn’t there anything the students can do to raise their grades one or two points? Ruby said that we should base 80% of the student’s grade on how well he/she understood the content and 20% on whether he/she had a plan and worked the plan. If we figured out ways to assign grades to his/her plan, the student could earn a few points that could raise the grade from a C (78) to a B (80) or raise a B (89) to an A (90).

5. You don’t have to do it alone. There are great resources out there to help as well. Ruby has a book called Working with Parents that is a must-read for teachers and administrators alike. Ruben Perez has a DVD called Welcome to U.S. Schools: A Guide for Spanish-Speaking Immigrant Parents that is the best I have ever seen. It is in Spanish with English subtitles. Ruben shares information with parents about the grading system in American schools, attendance policies, and how important it is that students do not translate in parent meetings.

What are some effective ways you use to work with parents in your school?