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Snail Mail

Before the start of each school year, send home a friendly letter introducing yourself to both parents and students. Some teachers also like to enclose an informal survey with questions designed to get to know their students better. For younger students, the parents may be asked to fill this out and to include some of their own educational goals as well.

Email

Email is a highly efficient way to establish strong ties between home and school. Most parents now have access to email on a daily basis and appreciate the convenience of receiving school-related information in this manner.

Get in the habit of emailing home short class updates on a regular basis and you'll be popular with parents across the board. Many of today's parents like to know everything that goes on in their children's lives, and lack of communication between home and school is one of their main complaints. So be proactive and keep parent concerns at bay.

You needn't spend lots of time on these updates, and the content is often less important than the friendly connection. Keep it simple and make it quick; just be sure to proofread and double-check your grammar before hitting the "send" button!

Pictures

Yes, each one really is worth a thousand words - which makes them one of the most efficient communication tools of all! Emailing digital photos is a simple yet incredibly effective way for new teachers to build rapport with parents. Take photos of class projects, science experiments, field trips, the first day of school - anything you find interesting - and email them off with a simple caption or two.

Newsletters

Whether done weekly, monthly or quarterly, class newsletters are an excellent way to update parents. They can also be an enriching project for older students if you enlist their help. Print them out or email them home, and keep copies in a binder for parents to browse while visiting the classroom or waiting for conferences.

Class Website

More and more classes are building websites of their own. This is an exciting way to integrate technology into your classroom and to build literacy, communication and technical skills among your students. See Tech Integration 101 as well as the Survival Toolkit for tips and resources to get you in gear.

Parent Conferences

If you follow the pointers above and implement some of the suggestions, your parent conferences are more likely to be successful. Parents will feel more comfortable entering the room for what may be the first time for many of them. You will have established a rapport, provided them with pertinent information, and given them something to bring up in friendly conversation.

Be flexible when scheduling conferences to try to accommodate working parents' schedules. If possible, come in a bit early or stay a bit late on those days. If a parent says they are unable to come to the school for a conference, whether the reason has to do with employment, transportation or indifference, try to schedule a phone conference instead. Any communication is better than none; be empathetic and nonjudgmental when it comes to parent involvement and you might be able to make a difference.

There are general rules to follow for parent conferences, and your principal may supply you with a list of these. Be on time, be prepared, be pleasant, be professional. Sit at a table alongside parents, not behind a desk. But before you begin be sure to look in the Survival Toolkit for tips from teachers who've been through hundreds of conferences and encountered almost every situation imaginable.

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