Working With Parents: A Teacher’s Guide

An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrated by Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Customer satisfaction is a key driving force of success in any business. Customers who are happy come back for more, and usually tell other people about the great service or product they’ve just bought.

In the teaching profession, your number one job is to do a good job. However, we often lose sight of the fact that our students are not actually the main people we’re aiming to serve. By providing the best quality of service to our students, we’re actually satisfying the needs of the parents by proxy. 

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All of your parents deserve respect and the highest level of service

In many service – based industries, the key goal is to make the customers happy. This poses a unique question for teachers, as it is sometimes unclear who our customers are.

If our customers are our students, then should we aim make them happy all the time? Not necessarily. Our aim is do what’s best for the students, whether they like it or not. A student may be happy if they do not receive any homework or if they’re allowed to sleep in class, but this would never help them in the long-term.

So that leads us to parents. Are they our customers? Yes. Absolutely yes. 

Most parents want the best for their children, and it’s always very important to know their expectations. Some parents are happy enough if their child is simply in class, being supervised and on-task. Others may have very high expectations, such as achieving a level 7 in IB Biology and then going on to study at an Ivy League or Russel Group university.

Our key priority, above all else, must be to exceed each parents’ expectations. We can only do that if we know what those expectations are in the first place.

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“This is a great book for people who are struggling to get to grips with their busy teaching schedule”UKEdChat Book Review

Parent’s can help teachers in key ways, if we get to know them:

  1. Parent’s can offer a lot of insight into their child’s study habits, hobbies, interests and family situation. All of this information can be used to inform lesson planning, facilitate mentoring and provide a wider perspective into the life of the student.
  2. Parent’s can help you to keep track of work being done at home, and can help with reinforcing schedules. The advent of e-mail and chat apps has made teacher-parent communication easier than ever before.
  3. Keeping in touch with parents is a great way to keep your students motivated. A quick e-mail or phone call to praise a child for a great piece of work done, or showing a good attitude in class, can work wonders (especially with students who are consistently disruptive). 
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Parents should be treated as very important customers 

In my debut book, I wrote a whole chapter about working with parents. Getting this key-relationship right can help you in so many ways, even with the regular management of your students in class.
Chapter 6 - maxwell and jonesAsk yourself these questions to see how well you know your parents:

Do you know the first names of your parents? This is vital, as all humans respond in a more alert and friendly manner to people who address them by name. Make the effort to contact your parents at the start of the semester (or as soon as possible) and introduce yourself. You’ll be amazed at the positive impression this will give of you and your school.

Do you know what your parents do for a living? This is often overlooked, but it is such vital information. Knowing that John’s dad is an engineer, for example, allows you to reinforce the importance of a good education in your students, and build up their respect and pride of their parents. “Well, John, I know that your dad is good at mathematics because he uses it every day in his job as an engineer. You should be really proud of him”.  In addition to this, whenever you need guest speakers or specialist knowledge for your lessons, you could bring a fresh perspective to your teaching by contacting parents for help.

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Do you know your parents’ expectations? This is essential if you want to get parents on your side. Find out exactly what they want from you, and make sure they know that you know what they want. Keep them informed along the way, and always report on progress, or lack thereof. 

It’s quite time-consuming, but important, to know the desires of each parent you work with. If you don’t have this information yet, then a good starting point is the Seven Key Desires of Parents that I outlined in my book:

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In my opinion, parents are the most under-used resource in the education profession, and yet they can offer such rich benefits. I write about this at length in my book, and I’ve included the summary of the chapter below:

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Author:

High School Science and Mathematics Teacher, Author and Blogger. Graduated from Bangor University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Molecular Biology and a PGCE in Secondary Science Education. Richard also holds the coveted Certificate in Mathematics from the Open University (UK).

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