On the surface teachers at our early childhood centre have good relationships with the parents and extended families of the children who attend. However, surprisingly, we had some mediocre feedback in our parent survey this year. Some reflection and reading about improving our relationships was needed. This article by McGrath seems to be quite helpful with ideas about how to help us improve our relations.

Ambivalent Partners: Power, trust and partnership in relationships between mums and teachers by W McGrath (2007).

The rhetoric is of parents and teachers as partners, is this a reality? Parents and teachers come to the table with different expectations, knowledge and needs, but with a desire to work together. When there is good communication between both parties, accomplishments get acknowledged, little problems don’t tend to become big ones and big problems can be better managed.

When teachers provide information about the child, they bolster parental trust, and parents connect to the child’s experience in the centre. Teachers tend to invest less in trusting parents; power dynamics in interactions with parents fluctuate because the partnership is framed by ambivalence and uncertainty.

Communication Strategies

  1. Communicate regularly: The most familiar forms of communication between parents and early childhood teachers are: personal contact, telephone calls, home visits, parent evenings, open evenings, and afternoon teas. However, the establishment of effective centre-home communication has grown more complex as society has changed. The great diversity among families means that it is not possible to rely on a single method of communication that will reach all homes with a given message. It is essential that a variety of strategies, adapted to the needs of particular families and their schedules, incorporated into an overall plan.

Some strategies to consider include:

    • Introductory pages for teachers on display
    • Parent newsletters
    • Annual open house
    • Parent conference
    • Parent-teacher support group/Facebook page
    • Portfolio’s of child’s learning to go home for parent review and comment
    • Phone calls
    • E-mail or contact through centre website
    • Curriculum nights
    • Home visits (where applicable)
    • Annual school calendars/ photos
    • Inserts in local newspapers
    • Annual grandparents or “special persons” days
    • Annual field days
    • Notices and handouts available in the centre and in local markets, clinics, churches, mosques, temples, or other gathering sites
    • Website for the centre showcasing excellence in practice
    • Workshops for parents
    • Communications that are focused on fathers as well as mothers

Good two-way communication between families and early childhood centres is necessary for children’s success. Not surprisingly, research shows that the more parents and teachers share relevant information with each other about a child, the better equipped both will be to help that child achieve.

Effective communication strategies involve:

  • Initiation: Teachers should initiate contact as soon as they know which children will be in their classroom for the school year. Contact can occur by means of an introductory phone call or a letter to the home introducing yourself to the parents and establishing expectations.
  • Timeliness: Adults should make contact soon after problem identification, so a timely solutions are found. Waiting too long can create new problems, possibly through the frustration of those involved.
  • Consistency and frequency: Parents want frequent, ongoing feedback about how their children are performing
  • Follow-through: Parents and teachers each want to see that the other will actually do what they say they will do.
  • Clarity and usefulness of communication: Parents and teachers should have the information they need to help children, in a form and language that makes sense to them.

Surprise a Parent

Parents are not accustomed to hearing unsolicited positive comments from teachers about their children, especially in a phone call from the centre. Research shows that increased school-home communication occurs through personalized positive contact between teachers and parents such as a phone call.