Working with families can be one of the most challenging parts of being an early childhood educator. In order to help build confident learners, teachers and parents have to work together to create a safe and supportive learning environment. It is important for us as educators to be confident in our teaching while also doing our best to meet the needs of each family.
Here are some ideas for building strong relationships with families starting at the beginning of the year:
- Gather information. Even if your school administration already collects information from families, send home your own packet of information with a questionnaire for parents to fill out. This will be a valuable tool as you begin learning about your students. It also gives insight into the home life of each family and shows them that you respect their expertise.
- Conduct home visits. This is a great way to learn more about the culture of each family and gives you a chance to see each child in a different environment. This also gives your students a chance to see you outside of the classroom which can help strengthen the teacher-student relationship. Schedule a time to visit during the first few weeks of school and bring a coworker with you.
- Connect regularly. Make an effort to connect with caregivers when they drop off and pick up their children. Be sure to tell them one specific thing about their child’s day. Being both honest and positive during these interactions will build trust between the family and teacher.
- Make learning visible. Share a basic framework for weekly lesson plans, photographs of children engaged in activities, and information about what is happening in the classroom on a regular basis. This can be a formal newsletter, a casual email to a family, or even a quick text message with a picture of their child. Find out the best way to contact each family and be sure to communicate in a variety of ways.
- Invite families into the classroom. Special events and parties should not be the only times when parents are invited into the classroom. Parents should feel welcome to come in anytime to see daily activities and to be a part of the general classroom community.
- Create unique volunteer opportunities. Not everyone has the ability to or feels comfortable volunteering their time during the school day. Be creative when reaching out to families and think about providing a list of volunteer options at the beginning of the year.