If you are anything like I was when I was an NQT, the prospect of meeting pupils’ parents might feel akin to dunking yourself into shark-infested waters. What if they ask you something you don’t know the answer to? What if they don’t like you? And, perhaps most terrifying of all: what if one of them is a teacher?
It is understandable to feel this way at first, but getting to know the parents of your pupils can make your job in the classroom so much easier. Take the time to create strong relationships with them at this point in the year, and you definitely won’t regret it.
Here’s how to do it.
Introduce yourself properly
Remember that the most precious thing in the world to the parents you work with is within your care: their children. To set their minds at ease, parents will be eager to get to know you and understand how your classroom works. Sending out a letter or even holding a "meet and greet" session ahead of the first parents’ evening can be a welcome gesture.
Informing parents of an elaborate homework project or a change in routine with only a day’s notice can cause chaos at home. But being organised and giving parents plenty of notice will help them to relax and support you in building an effective working partnership.
Find a communication system that works for you and your parents – that might be good old-fashioned letters or communication through the school system with texts or emails.
However, when thinking about communication, remember to protect your own personal space. Never give out your personal email or phone number, and adding parents to personal social media accounts is a no-no. Having clearly defined professional boundaries will help you to develop that all-important professional reputation.
Although you will be keen to please the parents, reacting instantly to a meeting request can put you under pressure. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a couple of days to think about how you want to respond and to get advice from colleagues before you agree to a meeting.
Know their children
Above all, parents will want to know that you are dedicating time to their child. Many parents worry that their child will blend in with the crowd, so letting them know that their child matters will be a warm reassurance. Whether you comment on one of their child’s positive traits or their hobbies, it will help parents to see you as someone who values your students, so take the time to memorise at least one positive quality for every child you teach.
Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer of primary education at Edge Hill University. She tweets @Sarah__wright1