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Family–School Partnerships: Five Tips for Successful Problem Solving With Parents
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It is well established that when parents and educators engage with one another, students benefit. While traditional one-way parental involvement in student activities offers some benefit to students, the impact is multiplied when parents and teachers work jointly and share responsibility for children’s success. Parents and teachers have unique knowledge, information, experiences, and perspectives about their children and students. Unfortunately, this information is not always shared effectively between homes and schools. Two-way sharing between teachers and parents is important for all children, but it is essential for students whose learning and achievement are at risk because of challenges with behavior, social–emotional functioning, or learning skills.
School psychologists can help build bridges between home and school to promote successful outcomes for students with academic and behavioral concerns. By providing consultation, school psychologists can bring parents and teachers together to engage in joint problem-solving strategies and create a plan of action that addresses the needs of students at home and school, thereby setting them on a positive course.
However, facilitating successful parent–teacher problem-solving meetings is often more easily said than done. Here are five partnership-building tips to increase the chances of successful parent–teacher problem-solving meetings.
1. Address the Problem Immediately
Challenges can be addressed most effectively when teachers and parents make contact at the earliest signs of struggle. Discussing issues right away allows teachers and parents the ability to develop a treatment plan quickly and effectively.
2. Focus on Strengths
One of the basic building blocks of a strong parent–teacher relationship is that teachers and parents stand united on helping children. Focusing on children’s strengths, and the strengths of the partnership, allows teachers and parents to build on positive opportunities and experiences in a constructive way.
3. Strengthen Home–School Connections
Point out similar experiences between parents and teachers. Parents and teachers may have different experiences with the same child and may have different perceptions about the problem focus or treatment. By acknowledging similarities between parents and teachers, school psychologists provide opportunities to come together, recognize their shared goals related to benefits for the child, and develop those shared goals.
4. Respect Uniqueness
Children benefit most when their caregivers and teachers know one another and have some basic information about “how things work” at home and school. School psychologists can encourage parents and teachers to be open to differences across settings by probing for more information about reasons and rationales behind practices and routines.
Diversity among parents and teachers may be present. For example, there will be situations where cultural, ethnic, or language differences exist. When promoting partnerships in these situations, acknowledge and respect the uniqueness of each party, demonstrate ways in which the diversity of experiences and culture is a strength, and identify areas where similarities are present.
5. Provide Structure
Prepare and use structured problem-solving steps to systematically solve problems. Prepare and share agendas with parents and teachers prior to and during meetings. Redirect back to the agenda to keep focus on strengths and solutions. Provide opportunities on the agenda for everyone to share. Both parents and teachers have important information to share when it comes to the child. Use opportunities to integrate information obtained from parents and teachers so they feel connected and unified in their efforts.
Remember, as with all relationships, building partnerships takes time. Invest time and resources to ensure parents and teachers are active, essential partners throughout the problem-solving process.
For more tips on family–school partnerships, visit our website, tapp.unl.edu.