Have you ever experienced that moment, in the middle of October, when a student has worked your last nerve and you send them to the office? When they get to the office and the principal calls home, their parents are surprised, and you feel the heat. How can you avoid this? Through open and continuous communication.
Just like creating a relationship with your students, it is critical to do the same with their families. I make it a point to call each parent or guardian at the beginning of the school year to introduce myself and express my joy that I have their child in my class. I ask the parents about their goals for their child and discuss how I can help support them. I talk briefly about IEP goals to make sure I understand the rationale behind them from the parent or guardian’s perspective and get any ideas from them to help their child meet those goals. I also make it a point to follow up with each family once a month, or more if necessary.
When it comes to communicating with families, I don’t exclusively rely on phone calls―sometimes it is an email, or a note for a student to take home (I always let the student know what is in it to make sure it gets there). These communications may be a celebration, a concern, or just a request for their feedback on how things are going for their child. This is an important exercise to implement for the students on your caseload, and if possible, important for each student you teach.
If you keep the lines of communication open, parents and guardians won’t be surprised when they get a call from the principal about a bad behavior or from the counselor telling them of a great academic success. While getting families in the schools are a constant struggle, having open communication with them will go far throughout the year. I tend to wait a few weeks into the school year and then invite them to join the PTA that way they feel connected not only to the teacher, but to the school as well. Want more strategies for increasing family involvement? Check out the CEC’s upcoming webinar.
Richard Williams is a special education teacher, who teaches students with emotional/behavioral disorders. Williams has worked in general education schools in self-contained EBD classrooms and two special education centers for students with severe EBD. He has a master’s in special education from Clark Atlanta University and is currently working towards a doctorate in special education from The George Washington University with a focus on students with EBD and transition plans and preparations for post-secondary life. In additions to his studies, he is working on two projects, one on the neurological and continuities ability for adolescents to effectively participate in their transition plans, and the quality of life outcomes for students with EBD in post-secondary school. An active CEC member, Williams has been a Reality 101 blogger as well as a member of the Yes I Can and Diversity Committees. Outside of the classroom, he is a plant-based lifestyle and animal rights advocate and runs a blog of book reviews and current events. In his spare time, he loves to read and go on hikes with his dog.