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Keeping the lines of communication open between teachers and parents

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Many teachers complain that their students' parents fail to actively participate in their children's education. This is certainly true in many cases, often presenting a difficult challenge for schools. However, teachers and school administrators need to understand that many families simply don't know how to participate constructively. In other words, they do not have a clear picture of what they are expected to do.

It goes without saying that teachers are happiest with those parents that monitor their children's homework, respond to letters from school, and support the school when they are asked to do so. When this does not happen, many teachers automatically assume that the parents don't care. This is especially true of middle and high school teachers. The problem often has to do with communications. Many parents assume that if there is a problem at school the teacher will notify them; conversely, many teachers assume that when parents are silent it's because they don't care. Much of this can be corrected by teachers who are willing to:

1. Create a classroom website that informs parents about the instructional as well as social activities within the classroom. The students can take responsibility for the site with appropriate supervision;
2. Call parents once each quarter to simply ask them if they have any questions or concerns about their children's education;
3. Invite parents to participate in fun school activities that are not always centered on sports. For instance, organize a parent-student jeopardy contest, or a bake-off;
4. Invite parents to speak about their professions and align such presentations with the material you are teaching. In essence, demonstrate to the students that the curriculum has practical application for their future; and
5. Offer parents an opportunity to ask questions about issues that are contentious and often misunderstood about public school education. For instance, surveys show that most Americans do not understand the purpose and scope of Common Core State Standards.

These are simply a few ideas for teachers to consider. The bottom line is that open communications between teachers and parents may well be the key ingredient to making sure that our students succeed.

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