Teacher-Family Partnerships Work
The partnership between teachers and families is critical to ensuring academic success for your students. It is also a significant factor in your own success as a teacher. The families of the students in your class can be your biggest champions and supporters. As a teacher, you have likely developed a well-honed ability to connect with your students. Leveraging this skill set to families can do wonders for your classroom—and students. When you consider the families of your students as an extended facet of your classroom community, you will be able to forge powerful partnerships.
This partnership, like any, could have its ups and downs. The back-to-school ideas listed below can help you involve families and create great partnerships will add value to your classroom all year long. Get your year off to a terrific start by reaching out to families in many different ways. Explore these options and see what works best for you.
A Great Tech Start to Your Year
Many schools today invite and encourage teachers to utilize their school’s own website to connect with families. These schools want teachers to create a web page on the district site that houses assignments, downloads, vetted links, and other tools that will help both students and their families. From things as simple as lyrics to a class song to long-term project assignments, PDFs, and study site links, this kind of web page is valuable to families.
From a family’s point of view, it is empowering and reassuring to discover exactly the materials one’s child has forgotten in one fast go-to place—a place that is much more reliable than a classmate’s version. In some districts, creating such a page is optional. If this is the case in your district, consider investing the time to create a page. Families come to rely on these pages at their lifeline to your classroom. Having your own web page could save you lots of time down the road, because families will search your page for answers to their questions first before automatically emailing you or calling you.
Another great way to involve families is through a secure classroom blog. A secure site is a protected environment where students, the class, and families can connect without risking that students could wander to other unsafe sites; this environment also protects confidential student information. If your school/district permits you to create your own stand-along blog site that exists outside of the school’s web-protected presence, there are dozens of free and easy-to-use servers for this purpose. First, confirm that privacy issues and other Internet safety parameters are in force before starting your blog.
With a password-protected website, in either a school/district site or a protected external site, you can give families a real-time window into their child’s school life. Teachers have successfully utilized such classroom sites for a range of purposes—updates, showcasing student work, providing homework help, displaying a calendar of events, sharing photo albums, podcasts, and videos of presentations, offering study guides, and much more!
When districts allow, some teachers opt to create Twitter or Instagram accounts for their classrooms, as well. Other teachers have given working family members the opportunity to be part of classroom events that take place during the business day through the use of a webcam and live streaming. Others post videos immediately after.
These digital avenues allow for families to quickly and easily “get in the loop” from anywhere at anytime. How have you utilized technology in connecting with the families of your students? Start the year by integrating digital technology into your overall family connection plan. Confirm your options with your school administration. They’ll likely have a significant anecdotal history to share as to why the district has shaped its best practices the way they have.
It’s In The (Class) Book
Another way to build your classroom community is by creating a classroom “blue book” and distributing it to the families of your students. This booklet would contain key dates, contact information for the families in your class, and might include student birthdays, as well. Having each other’s contact information could come in handy for families time and again. It could be a lifesaver when they want to organize carpools, coordinate play dates, send birthday party invitations, or simply keep in touch.
If your district has a class list with this information on it that is sent to families before school begins, you might want to include an extra copy in your book. You could also include class rules and other parameters.
As with all other ideas noted here, be sure to confirm with your district before you create and distribute anything. There is no downside to checking before you create something. The district could have some very sound reasons for its policies and you won’t know until you ask. You might also discover that your district has already laid the groundwork or even done some of the initial work for you. Many districts have templates and other time-savers on their sites.
Pocket Folders Keep It Together for Families
One way to help families stay organized is to send home a ready-made organizing tool. Many teachers opt to send home a pocket folder. If you teach primary grades, decorating the family pocket folder can be a great start-of-year activity. Light color folders work best.
If your students are older or you are simply pressed for time, try one of these great ready-made pocket folders from Teacher Peach. They come in class sets of 25 and make an easy and economical way to set a strong collaborative image for your classroom to the families of your students.
The Power of Family Partnerships
Partnerships made a big difference. This blog post offers some strategies many teachers have used with great success. These might be ideas you’re sparked to adapt to your particular situation. Check out our next post, Back-to-School Ideas for Teachers to Involve Families, Part 2, in the coming days. Do you have a great idea to share with teachers about how you create connections with the families of your students? Post your comments here. We’d so enjoy hearing from you.
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