That time of year is getting closer. Whether you go back to school in August or September (or gasp!) July, the kids are starting to get ready to come back. This time can be especially exciting if your child is going off to kindergarten. You can bet that at every party and cookout this summer the little kiddos have been asked if they are excited about going to kindergarten. Not to mention the parents. Sending your child off to kindergarten is such a happy time it’s also a time filled with a little trepidation.
This year the poem I send out every year is a little more poignant as I send my “baby” off to college. (sniff, sniff)
Meeting the parents can be exciting or filled with mishaps. It does almost feel like meeting the in laws for the first time. As a teacher you are responsible for your kids, but we also have a responsibility to the parents. Trust me, I’ve sent 3 of my own kids off to kindergarten and this summer my first off to college. You can’t forget the parents. If you’re hoping for a terrific year, you NEED the parents on your side. First impressions are everything so here are my top 5 tips taken from 30 years of experience.
Let them know you care about their child.
Duh, right? But, seriously, you need the parents to know you care about THEIR child. Get down on your knees, look the child in their eye, spend your time talking to the little one. I’m not saying you should ignore the adults, but your focus should be on making the kids comfortable. Even though my kids are older, I can tell you I have a soft spot for anyone who is kind or has been kind to my kids.
Let them know you’re smart.
You are in charge of teaching their little love to read. The parents want to know you know what you are doing. Now is the time to brag a little. If you’re a new teacher tell them where you went to school, if you are a little older (cough, like me) tell them about how many years of experience you have. Channel your mother and pretend she is introducing you. You won an award? Let them know. You spent the summer learning a new skill? Tell them. Tell them all the wonderful things about you that your mother brags about. They want to know you know what you’re doing. They want to know you have a plan for their child, whether they are already reading or they don’t know any letters yet. Parents want to know you have a plan for addressing their child’s unique needs. Be careful, don’t use lingo. Educators LOVE acronyms, we use them for everything. Don’t use them with parents!!!
Let them know you are “in charge”
We all have heard horror stories about bullies in school and even worse, school violence. Luckily most of us will never face those issues, but we will face kids who tease, push, tattle, are noncompliant, and who frustrate not only us, but also the other kids. The kids will go home and tell their parents about “that” kid who always seems to be in trouble. Let the parents know you have strategies for developing a culture that is supportive to all kids. Let them know your values about classroom management. If you have need a couple extra strategies check here. Your parents want to feel confident in your ability to have control of the class.
Let them know you are available.
We all have different levels of comfort when it comes to how available we want to be with parents. I give my parents my cell phone number with the caveat that I like texts, not calls. I let my parents know I don’t always check my phone until I get home, so texts may not be responded to immediately. Set the boundaries early, I let parents know that I will get back to them within 24 hours, but don’t expect immediate responses. A great way to stay in contact with parents is Class DOJO if you haven’t signed up yet, do it now. Seriously it’s an awesome way to communicate with parents. If you haven’t checked out Google forms you need to educate yourself on how helpful they can be in a class. As long as your parents know how to contact you and they are clear with expectations you’ll be fine.
#5 Let them know what to expect
Make sure they know the routines and schedules. What door do I pick up my walker? How much does lunch cost? Do we need to send a snack? How do I know about picture day? Can I volunteer? How many field trips? Will there be daytime concerts? You think the kids ask a lot of questions? Yikes, parents can have tons of questions. Get in front of the questions and write down the answers. and hand it out, and again and again. Seriously the parents are being inundated with paper work at the beginning of the year, send this information every month for a couple of months. Prepare for long lines at the copy machine.
I love teaching because it’s a fresh start every fall. We get to work like we are in the Ground Hog Day movie. Take advantage of starting off on the right foot. Remember “Sometimes, it’s harder to be the one who waves good-bye than it is to be the one who climbs the beanstalk.” Let’s have a great year!!!
You can get a copy of the beanstalk poem here