Meeting a new group of parents at the start of the school year always makes me more nervous than meeting my new students. Keep reading to find some easy ways to reach out to the new families in your class.
Luckily, first graders just have a way of putting me at ease, for which I am very grateful! It doesn’t always feel that way with their parents, though.
The good news is that 99.9% of the parents I have gotten to know over the years have been lovely and down to earth. There is that teeny tiny group who will keep you on your toes all year but the majority will be wonderful! Along those lines, I want to share with you the best advice I’ve ever been given about building relationships with parents. It is a total game changer. I can honestly tell a difference between the years I’ve followed this advice and the years I’ve told myself I was too busy for it.
I’m talking about first day of school as soon as possible. The best case scenario would be the teacher initiating this contact rather than responding to a message from a parent. It is definitely one more thing to take on during an already crazy busy time but it is so worth it! I promise!
Your main goal with this first contact is to introduce yourself & build rapport. I try to keep things friendly and casual. I want parents to feel comfortable chatting with me and to let them know right away to call me by my first name and not Miss Happy Teacher!
Reaching out to parents early also lets you share about the first days of school. I find that parents are usually very curious about what happens after they drop their babies off with a new teacher. Being proactive and answering those questions before they are even asked goes a long way in reassuring parents about their child’s new classroom.
It also gives you a chance to let parents know that you are really getting to know their child as an individual and to share something positive about their child. Parents are more likely to trust and support you in any difficult situations that might come up during the year if you already have established a positive connection with them before any challenging conversations arise.
This is definitely the most time consuming way to make that first contact but it is also the most powerful way. Before calling, I think about our first day and then each child individually. When I get nervous I tend to ramble so I try to plan out a few things to say to each family before I start dialing. Here’s an idea for what you might say to start your call, “Hi (parent name) this is (your name), (child’s name)’s teacher. I just wanted to let you know what a great first day (child’s name) had and how much I enjoyed meeting him/her.” From there you can chat about class activities and answer any questions the parents might have.
While making phone calls is always my first choice it just isn’t possible every year. Emailing is the next best thing. I like to send a short message similar to what I would say over the phone but I also attach a photo from our first day for the parents. This is a great ice breaker because who doesn’t love seeing a part of their child’s first day at school? I love seeing all of the fun first day photo op ideas on Pinterest and trying something new each year. Here are some of the absolute cutest ideas I have seen! Click below to visit my board full of first day photo ideas. It makes it hard to pick just one!
At my school, we don’t have a Meet the Teacher or Open House event before the first day of school. Because parents can sometimes feel anxious about the first day I like to send home an informational packet with their child at the end of the day. I include a letter describing the day’s activities, information about any activities coming up that first week, and a questionnaire for parents to complete about their child. I have found some really great letters & surveys that will help as you create your own packet. Be sure to check them all out on The First Grade Parade, A Special Sparkle, First Grade Blue Skies, and First Grade Factory. It’s also nice to have something the parents will see before you call or email later that afternoon. That way they will be ready to ask questions.
I love my Shutterfly classroom website almost as much as this baby loves Katy Perry… which if you’ve seen this whole video is saying something! This will be my fourth year using Shutterfly and I can’t imagine running my classroom without it! It’s free, password protected, & really easy to share photos & sign up sheets with parents. It is a huge time saver. And Shutterfly is not paying me to say any of this! You can see a sample site here. Be sure to give out information about your new site in your first day of school packet so parents will know where to look right away.
First Day Favors
Sending cheerful & happy students out the door on the first day of school does a lot to ease any worries parents might have had during the school day. And sending a little treat or prize home with your new students is one way to almost always guarantee that you will have some excited kids when the bell rings. Check out all of the fun ideas found on Pinterest for first day favors below.
(please let me know if you would rather not have your idea featured)
Just be careful searching favors on Pinterest….. you might get sucked in for hours!
I wish you good luck in your new school year and I hope that you will be able to develop positive relationships with your students and their families. Remember, get in touch on the first day for maximum impact!
image credits: KG Fonts, giphy.com, BuzzFeed, MaxyM/shutterstock, punphoto/shutterstock, Balkonsky/shutterstock