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Tips for building the parent-teacher connection

Now that September is over, you may find yourself taking a deep breath as you prepare to dive into the rest of the school year. With parent-teacher conferences approaching in late October and early November, take some time this month to think about the ways you’ll keep your students’ families informed and engaged throughout the year.

Use your parent engagement time wisely. As part of the 2014 contract negotiated by the UFT and the Department of Education, you should have a block of time built into your workday — 40 minutes per week, which may be configured differently depending on your school — for interacting with parents and families. (If you feel like this time isn’t available to you, speak to your chapter leader.) Some teachers use this time to make phone calls, meet with parents individually or work on home-school newsletters. Others have invited parents into their classrooms for workshops and learning opportunities.

Seize opportunities to build positive connections. Some families are used to getting phone calls from school only when their children have done something wrong. You’ve probably already made at least one such phone call. This month, find something positive about that student to call home about. If you continue to build a positive relationship with your challenging students and their families, your efforts may pay dividends later in the year.

Use technology to stay in touch. Templates — like those on Shutterfly’s Classroom Share website  — can make it easy to build a website to share photos, calendars, supply lists and sign-up sheets with your students’ families. The free app Remind allows you to text multiple phone numbers at once; you can even translate your message into more than 70 languages.

Another free app that’s popular with teachers is Class-Dojo, which allows teachers to send messages about students’ behavior and learning progress directly to families. “We can instantly message parents as a whole class or individually to relay important messages or give them ideas for how they can help their child progress at home,” say Kerry Edri and Kristie Ippolito, kindergarten teachers at PS/MS 105 in Far Rockaway, Queens. “Many parents have remarked about how much more connected they feel to what is going on in our class.”

Get help with languages. The DOE’s Translation and Interpretation Unit offers written translation and interpretation services. Your school often will have interpreters on-site during parent-teacher conferences; during other times, over-the-phone interpretation is available in more than 200 languages. For more information, email translations@schools.nyc.gov.

Your students’ families are crucial partners in helping them succeed. A little extra effort can go a long way when it comes to engaging families throughout the year.

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