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What I Wish I Knew About Parent Communication as a New Teacher

Amy Sheppard  |  July 19, 2021
I used to be very intimidated by parents because I was afraid of upsetting them. It would hurt my feelings terribly if someone was upset with me because I was trying so hard. But there are a few things I wish I knew my first year of teaching about parent communications that would have calmed my nerves quite a bit.
  1. Don’t take things personally.
I know this is easier said than done, but just remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Like in life, it’s important to remember to pick your battles. People tend to say things when they are upset that they would not say otherwise, and this is true in all areas of our lives. Parents are the same. Many times, parents need to vent and want to feel they are being heard. Often by validating their perspective or feelings, you can shift the tone of the communication. It is important to realize they are lashing out at a situation or misunderstanding a situation and not attacking you directly the majority of the time.
  1. It’s okay to not know what to say.
It’s okay to write an email, read it over, and delete it a few times before you get it where you want it to be. Take the time you need to say what you mean to say. Sometimes it is difficult to have the tone and wording of an email communicate our message effectively, especially if emotions are high. It may be better to write the email and hold off sending it right away or have a colleague review the email prior to sending. This will ensure that your tone or wording doesn’t come across in a way that was unintended.
  1. Be honest and be you.
Authenticity goes a long way when it comes to talking to parents about their kids, and they’ll sense if you’re not being genuine. If you’re a direct and kind person, be direct, but remember there’s a difference between being direct and being blunt. Do what feels right for you. If you’re not big on confrontation, you don’t have to go straight at them with the facts, you can use a softer touch.

When it comes to “being you”, focus on finding a style of communication that works best for you. Not everything has to be done over one specific channel of communication. Do what works best for you and the situation. My personal preference is email, but that’s not the same for every teacher. I have colleagues who prefer phone calls. There’s no one right way.
  1. Focus on the positives.
If a student who is normally bouncing around the classroom stayed in their chair all throughout math today, that’s something positive you can share with a parent. If they raised their hand in circle time and they’re not one who normally does that, send an email. Parents appreciate the positives, so never underestimate the power of a positive parent communication.

You can learn more of my tips for communicating with parents here, and tips for proactively communicating with parents here.