Don't disconnect! The importance of parent/teacher relationships at the secondary level.

Parent/teacher conferences should be viewed as team building that will support student success.

Photo of Melinda Schermerhorn
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What can we learn from the corporate world as it relates to education? Many companies, like Apple and PSA, invest in building continuous relationships with their employees to support growth and success. Key themes/terms among these companies include: trust, team, communication, sharing openly, empowerment and personal relationships. Why can't these same themes be implemented in the restructuring of parent/teacher conferences?

I recently made the transition from elementary to middle school. Although there are many similarities, there is one striking difference; communication and connections with parents. At the elementary level, I knew every parent by name and face. Our personal relationship was established at back to school night and ended on the last day of school. As an elementary teacher, my relationships with my students' parents was strong and I never hesitated to call regarding their child, with concerns or celebrations. On the flip side, I have discovered as a middle school teacher that the disconnect appears to happen during 6th grade. By the time students reach 8th grade and my classroom, there is very little parental involvement. Many would argue that this is a good thing and 8th grade is the time students need to learn to advocate for themselves and "helicopter" parents should stay away. However, as a parent of two high school students and as an 8th grade teacher, I highly disagree. What would it take to implement the key ideas corporate companies use to build relationships with parents? Time. With over 120 students, how could I possibly develop relationships with so many parents? I think many perceive parent/teacher conferences as a one to one meeting. So maybe we need to rethink the framework. Although scheduling 120 conferences seems near impossible, an informal gathering/discussion open to my students and their parents seems feasible. This session could be held at the beginning of the year and would be the first step in developing personal relationships and the sense of "team". I think at this grade level, it is extremely important for students to become involved in the process. Constant communication via newsletters, community hangout such as Google +  or webinars would help build relationships throughout the year. Keeping parents informed on classroom content, sharing podcasts of student work, classroom celebrations and concerns would empower parents to know what their children are learning in real time and help them stay connected. Finally, making time to develop relationships individually with students and their families would develop a strong sense of trust. Although these steps would require more time, I do think they would build a strong foundation for student growth and success throughout the year.

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe something you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research.

Communication and teamwork is necessary in the workplace and can be achieved through different formats.


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Photo of Clint Heitz

Melinda - Help keep the communication flowing! If you'd be willing, I would greatly appreciate your support for Guideposts to Success by heading to the post and leaving a positive evaluation, as well as suggestions to grow the idea even more. I think this idea could really help address your post. Thank you!

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