Getting Parents' Feedback Early Helps Teachers All Year
Reaching out to parents early in the school year is essential to fostering strong classroom bonds and understanding the specific needs and strengths of your students.
Knowing your students better helps build trust between school and home, making your job easier the rest of the year. These tips should come in handy when gathering feedback from parents:
Strive for academic, social & emotional feedback
While it can be good to think of students as blank slates (preventing bias from coloring your judgment), it’s still a strong practice to ask parents’ opinions of their children’s strengths and weaknesses. After all, all parents (this one included) love to talk about their kids; you might as well turn this urge to everyone’s advantage.
Just remember that your classroom, for all its social benefits, is primarily an academic place and that you want feedback which helps your students to leave with increased knowledge and skills. Parents’ emotional connections make it hard to be the most accurate judges of their children’s abilities, so don’t take their feedback as pure fact. Rather, it’s one important piece of the overall picture.
Also, try to find out about students’ social and emotional personalities. All good learning comes from good relationships, and knowing a child’s needs informs your practice. This also fosters a family’s trust that your class is a safe and nurturing environment for the student.
Ask how the child learns best
Parents should be able to provide specifics on how the child learns best. A few questions you might ask:
- Does the child need to say new learning out loud to remember it?
- Are study groups beneficial?
- Is information best learned when it is read and then reviewed with an adult?
- Where is the best place to get work completed?
These and other specific questions are important because the most common recommendations for studying and learning — a quiet place to work, all work completed right after school, parent review of work, etc. — tend to work for the most people but perhaps not all. Personalizing based on how each student learns should be part of your work.
Find out about sensitive dates
It’s OK to ask for sensitive dates that a child has a difficult time with. For some children, sad events enter their life early and the annual return of those dates becomes a challenging time. This is especially so if it is the one-year anniversary of the loss of a loved one, a move to a new town or some other stressful event.
This is a particularly effective way to build trust with parents. You don’t have to ask for this information, but your willingness to collect it (and pay attention to the child’s needs) sends a strong signal about how important it is to you.
Take an interest in favorite pursuits/hobbies
Asking about the child’s favorite pursuits and hobbies has two benefits: You learn more about the child and gain an opportunity to validate the child’s interests to the whole class. Pay particular attention to children who participate in non-traditional activities.
Validation from an adult is often exactly what they need when they feel pressure to conform to social norms. I’ve seen this come to life in the class for children who participate in activities traditionally associated with the opposite gender.
Use online services to collect feedback
An online form or survey service (like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms) is an easy and convenient way to collect parental feedback. Parents are usually inundated with forms at the start of the year, so offering them an online alternative will make their lives easier and make it more convenient for you to review the data.
The form used to collect this data can also be collaboratively designed with colleagues and shared among classes. Remember: Work shared is easier work to complete.