As teachers, we often read blog posts about building community within our classrooms. We also have these discussions on a near daily basis with our colleagues and our PLN (Professional Learning Network) in spaces like Twitter.
Building community within your class is the key to having not only a functioning classroom but a thriving one. If your students feel safe with you as their teacher and with their classmates, they embrace their everyday existence in their class. They take risks, try new things and enjoy learning.
One thing that is extremely important as educators to think about as well is building community with your parents.
Why do we need to do this?
We need to do this in order to have them feel comfortable with you as the educator and daytime caretaker of their most precious little people. We want them to know that their child isn’t just a number, but an individual with wants and needs that we will try to fulfill, if and when possible and necessary.
Parents want to be kept in the loop. They want to know about school events, but more. What is their child studying in school? If they are an EAL learner, what can the parents do at home to support them in their language journey? Some parents are extremely busy in life and their schedules don’t allow them to give their child’s education the focus they should so we need to be proactive and let them know what is happening.
Our email addresses are out there and we ask parents to reach out to us with any concerns about their children. When there is a concern, we email parents immediately and if the concern is a big one, they come in for face-to-face meetings.
Outside of your standard parent-teacher conference or student-led conferences, some teachers only communicate with parents when there is an issue to be dealt with.
When a parent receives an email from us, should they feel a sense of fear? “Oh no, what did my child do today?”
How can we change that around?
What can we as teachers do to include parents so when they see messages from us there isn’t an automatic feeling of, “Oh uh!”?
Making your class more “parent inclusive”
This year at my school I have seen teachers in my grade year level reach out to parents on a regular basis.
As a team, we all send weekly communications about what we are doing in class over Seesaw. We also send out regular notices about what is happening in the class and in the broader school via the same platform.
We have all made calls for parent guest readers and ask them to come into our class to do read alouds for our students. The kids really love that and it makes a real-life connection with our class parent network
Recently we have had several parents who are health-care professionals come in and talk to the five Grade One classes about general health and balanced life choices.
Parents have been invited in to prepare healthy snacks in front of the students and talk about healthy choice (our current Who We Are unit of inquiry is focusing on healthy choices).
What do you see when parents get involved in this way? You see happy children and happy parents. You see a warm classroom community that extends beyond the four walls of your classroom.
Building community with your students is EXTREMELY important, but don’t forget about their parents and guardians. Include them as well!
About the Writer:
Kevin O’Shea is a PYP/Nature/Outdoor educator, currently based in Beijing, China. He is a father, husband, and avid conservationist. Kevin is an advocate for outdoor play and nature education. He is the host of the long-running Just Japan Podcast and is currently developing the Making Better Teachers Podcast!