#T2Tchat: How Your Fellow Teachers Are Building Relationships With Families This Fall
During our recent #T2Tchat on Twitter, your fellow educators came together to share the resources, strategies and tools they’re turning to when it comes to family engagement – and now, we’re sharing them with you! We’ve put together this roundup of a few responses to each chat question, and we hope you’ll find some inspiration, a creative approach or a new activity to try with families – or all of the above!
You can see more (and add your own voice to the conversation!) by scrolling through #T2Tchat on Twitter. Special thanks to our partners at Understood.org and educators Juliana Urtubey and Lauren Jewett for facilitating the discussion. We hope we’ll see you join an upcoming #T2Tchat, too!
- Why is family engagement important to you as a teacher?
- What advice would you share with new teachers about engaging families?
- How have the challenges of the past six months shifted the way you think about partnering with families around learning?
- When in-person “family nights” or “back-to-school nights” aren’t possible, how can you still build strong connections?
- Share one creative way you’ve connected with families – or want to connect with families this year!
- How can teachers make sure family engagement strategies are inclusive and equitable?
- What’s one message you want to convey to families this school year? (Feel free to share more than one!)
Why is family engagement important to you as a teacher?
“Bells and whistles don’t always work. Taking the time to establish a connection to a student’s family is foolproof. A positive working relationship is worth its weight in gold. I always have a goal that the first parent/guardian contact is a positive one.” —Teacher Aymee Tiffany
“Family engagement is important because family members are teachers too! I strive to bridge the gap between home and school in an effort for students to grow as learners. Relationships with students and their families are key!” —Teacher Jen Snyder
“Family engagement is critical to education, especially in special education! Families know their children best… They have valuable information about the needs of their children. We work as a team in special education.” —Teacher Tammy Tomazoli
“Because our class is a WE classroom, class includes members of the community. Families help us understand the community and what it needs from us as teachers and trusted professionals; we are in it to be the best we all can together!” —Teacher Cait O’Connor
“When families are engaged, there is open communication between home and school and a positive relationship can be built. That allows all of us to work together more effectively to support the student.” —Teacher Andrea Biro
To read more about the impact of building positive relationships with families, check out these resources recommended by educators Juliana and Lauren:
What advice would you share with new teachers about engaging families?
“Start [building relationships] immediately! Invite them into your classrooms, send notes home, get to know them as well. I still have parents who keep in contact with me even years after I had their children. This is soooo important!” —Teacher Georgia Kotsiovos
“Families are your greatest resource and often want to be involved but may not know how to be involved (even at the secondary level). Teachers, reach out and be consistent. Provide opportunities for collaboration and celebrate victories together.” —Teacher Tiffany Alexander
“I keep a spreadsheet of how families like to be contacted, who likes email, text, phone calls (Google Voice for calls and texting).” —Teacher Mark Nechanicky
“When meeting with parents, always start with ‘glows’ – positive comments about their child – then after establishing a rapport, discuss ‘grows’ – areas of improvement. Make a plan together to support their child.” —Teacher Ashley Hinkle
“Be available to listen. This is hard for teachers, but it’s hard for students and families too. Let them vent. Let them ask. Let them talk. Be a partner by listening to their needs and concerns first.” —Teacher Lisa Gogel
“I love to reach out to them before school even starts. I have a Facebook class page that I invite parents to that I post all the need-to-know details before school starts. I keep them up to date on class stuff and share pictures. Parents love to see what’s going on in your room!” —Teacher Christina Henke
For more tips and tricks for engaging students and families, check out these resources recommended by educators Juliana and Lauren:
How have the challenges of the past six months shifted the way you think about partnering with families around learning?
“The last 6 months have been difficult for everyone, so the shift in focusing on checking in on the mental health of families is more important now than ever. Ensuring that each family is equipped with household essentials and providing needed support is KEY!” —Educator Quincy Hills
“We must create multiple pathways for learning to meet each family’s unique circumstances, backgrounds and experiences.” —Teacher Catherine A. Barrett
“I realized how important it is to build a positive relationship with families. In the spring, I reached out to parents to see how they were doing. I didn’t ask about assignments – just checking in with them and they appreciated it so much!” —Educator Georgia Kotsiovos
“It calls us to prioritize our students’ needs and how to make their needs and the situation work simultaneously. For six months and counting, we have taught as guests in our kids’ space – it’s important to be a resource, not a referee for students’ behavior or situation.” —Teacher Cait O’Connor
To learn more about engaging students and families during distance learning, check out this resource recommended by educators Juliana and Lauren:
When in-person “family nights” or “back-to-school nights” aren’t possible, how can you still build strong connections?
“Back-to-school virtual nights are fun. You could do a BINGO game for families to complete by looking over the teacher’s classroom. Also, you could have families do a get-to-know-us Google Slide for you.” —Educator Melissa Shepard
“Host classroom town hall meetings or fireside chats. Allow communication to flow in both directions. Understand that families will have more questions during this unique school year. Listen. Hear their concerns and show that you genuinely care about their kid.” —Teacher Jen Synder
“Build strong connections by having 1-1 video calls with students and their families. I would take 2 afternoons a week and give each family 10 minutes. Develop a bond and a plan on how their child best learns in the current environment.” —Teacher Ashley Hinkle
“I start the year with not only positive calls but also add what the student is working on and growing in as far as social emotional learning and academics. Best way to partner with families is to show you know their student. I say, ‘if you were sitting in class you would see/hear your student doing…’” —Teacher Mark Nechanicky
“During spring I did some virtual field trips to national parks with the families! They loved it!” —Teacher Ms. Morin
To read more about building relationships with students’ families during the back-to-school season, check out these resources recommended by educators Juliana and Lauren:
Share one creative way you’ve connected with families – or want to connect with families this year!
“Sending families postcards, hosting virtual Bingo nights via Zoom, meet-and-greets via Flipgrid, inviting parents to join Google Classrooms and hosting Q&A sessions are all methods I’ve used to stay connected to families.” —Educator Quincy Hills
“Flipgrid is my bestie. I have used it to give parents ‘homework’ to tell us about the first novel they read cover to cover and why they liked it (in their home language if they want to), then we watched them together in class.” —Educator Tiffany Alexander
“A couple of years ago, I sent out an email newsletter a few times during the semester. I’m thinking about doing something like that again, maybe a brief weekly update.” —Teacher Andrea Biro
“Positive end-of-week shoutouts, emailing families about reading opportunities or offering community information, especially to parents of multilingual learning students, and setting up family reading. Last year, a student got her mom to read a play we were reading in class!” —Teacher Cait O’Connor
For more of your fellow educators’ reflections on partnering with students and families during remote teaching, check out these stories:
How can teachers make sure family engagement strategies are inclusive and equitable?
“Providing various, FEASIBLE methods for families to stay engaged is the best approach to inclusion and equity. Ex: While hosting a Google Meet/Zoom, provide families with a link to join via computer AND a number to join via phone.” —Educator Quincy Hills
“I communicate with parents according to their preference when it comes to email vs. phone. I try to offer resources in multiple formats if they need it. Keep the lines of communication open so that if there’s something they need from me, they’re comfortable asking.” —Teacher Andrea Biro
“Offer engagement opportunities at different times. Record and email them to families. As for community support, provide options for families.” —Educator Tiffany Alexander
“Get information from your district about where to direct families with limited or no internet access, and call or deliver it to them, in several languages if needed. Packets for kids without internet don’t cut it – kids need to have the same standard of learning.” —Teacher Cait O’Connor
To read more about creating equitable and inclusive partnerships with families, check out these resources recommended by educators Juliana and Lauren:
What’s one message you want to convey to families this school year? (Feel free to share more than one!)
“I want them to know that we’re a team and we will work together to make this year a successful one for their child.” —Teacher Tracy
“I am here to help, not just my student, but their entire family.” —Teacher Mrs. Vargo
“My word for this year is grace. Grace when things don’t go as planned. Grace when frustrations are high. Grace when plans are rewritten for the millionth time. Let’s work as a team to help students be successful.” —Educator Tiffany Alexander
“You’re right to feel nervous, anxious, scared, frustrated and confused. No question is a dumb one, and don’t be afraid to ask. No matter brick & mortar or through a keyboard, you child is safe, supported and (will be) successful” —Educator Jamie Brown
“This year is going to be special. We’re going to do things that have never been done before, and there will be bumps along the way. But we will get through it, because we will work, learn and grow together, no matter the distance between us.” —Teacher Jen Snyder
To learn more about communicating the importance of teacher-family relationships, check out this check out this reflection from a fellow education: