Mary-Jo Hill

10 Jul 2017
What training, guidance or expectations have been shared with you on working with parents? Who is expected to say hello first? Which parents do you welcome, which parents do you fear?

On more than one occasion, a coaching session has turned to thinking about the role and nature of how a teacher is interacting with the parents of the pupil or pupils under our shared spotlight. The discussions throw up some stark similarities: many teachers avoid parent interaction and yet some teachers appear to welcome parents into the classroom with great veracity.

What prompts this varied response? What training, guidance or expectations have been shared with you on working with parents? Who is expected to say hello first? Which parents do you welcome, which do you fear? Who are the uninvolved, the involved, the demanding and the disinterested? How long is it before a school body embraces a fixed mindset on certain parents and their level of engagement?

Engaging with parents

Having spent 30 minutes or so thinking about two students in particular and three key messages that would be good to communicate to their parents at the planned evening ahead, the teacher felt prepared, open and confident that the conversation would be productive and helpful. In turn, the teacher then wondered what it was that had been putting her off having these important conversations. The novelty and anticipation of a new and unpredictable event were enough for her amygdala to be hitting overdrive.  Her feelings of uncertainty were always going to be easily hi-jacked and then filled with competing priorities or increased avoidance. Her considered coaching conversation had allowed her to acknowledge this and in turn, draw on her own resources and problem-solving skills to prepare a little. 

What potentially tricky conversations have you put off this academic year? What could have been nipped in the bud with a phone call or message home? What percentage of your week is spent on engagement with parents? How would you describe the relationship that you have with the parents of your classes? What impact might this have?