Building bridges

11th July 2008 at 01:00
How to create relationships with parents and carers: this is one of the most important and yet most difficult aspects of teaching - get this right and your year will flow well and you'll feel valued and supported; get it wrong and your self-esteem will plummet

How to create relationships with parents and carers: this is one of the most important and yet most difficult aspects of teaching - get this right and your year will flow well and you'll feel valued and supported; get it wrong and your self-esteem will plummet. You need to find out school policy and practice on this issue and try to follow it carefully. Step outside of these and you will not be as well protected by the school.

Holding welcome meetings can be a good method of establishing contact, explaining the procedures for your class. Homework, PE kit and other key aspects can be dealt with to avoid issues later. Ensure you have literature and help on hand for those for whom English is not their first language and things to send home for those who, inevitably, do not attend.

If you teach younger children, go outside in the mornings and evenings if you can to recognise parents and carers and start to build bridges. Try not to just go out after school to fetch in parents of children who have had "issues" that day. Sending home praise letters, postcards or making positive telephone calls are great ways to reinforce the message that "I want the best for your child".

If you do have an angry or aggressive parent, ensure that you have support from another member of staff. Try to get the parent to come inside a room and sit down: it is harder to be aggressive when sitting, and ensure you take detailed notes about the issues and give them a firm date and time by which the school will respond. If they start shouting or being abusive explain that it is not acceptable and ask them to leave. If they won't, then leave and seek assistance from another member of staff.

Remember, bust-ups are rare and can often be nipped in the bud; incidents are often born of parental frustration and a belief that no one is listening to them. Most parents and carers want the same as we do for their child: for them to become happy and well-adjusted learners.

Kate Aspin is a senior lecturer in education at the University of Huddersfield.

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