One of my biggest challenges as a TA has been dealing with parents. When I first stood on the door at home-time I had a feeling of trepidation akin to meeting a boyfriend’s family for the first time: I was incredibly awkward and was scared that they wouldn’t like me. However, in a primary school you are going to be dealing with parents everyday so it’s important that you get good at building relationships and fast! I thought it might be useful to share with you some of the tips and strategies I have picked up from the wonderful teachers at my school (they are really good at this).
Talk to every parent during the week about their child’s progress
We are lucky enough in primary schools to see most parents most days. This is perfect relationship building time! It’s also easier said that done in the bustle of the playground. To make things easier one teacher suggested having a tick list each week to mark off when she’d checked-in with each parent.
Be aware that not all parents are able to pick their children up themselves. If you don’t manage to see certain parents make sure you phone home for a catch up, even if it’s just to say how wonderful little Jane has been all week. Busy parents will appreciate that you’ve made an effort to speak to them and it will help them to feel included.
One word of warning: make sure you communicate to parents that you might be calling from time to time. When schools phone home parents tend to jump to the conclusion that their child has been hurt, or that they’ve done something awful. A mini heart-attack is best avoided!
Build an idea of each child’s family tree, try to put faces to names
First of all, in terms of safeguarding, it’s really important that you know who’s who; you don’t want to let your child go home with the wrong adult!
Aside from this it’s very useful to know who is related to who! When Taylor hasn’t done his reading homework, and you know mum and dad are busy with a new baby or a new job, you can enlist his big sister in year 5 to help him out. You can also encourage children to be good role models to their younger siblings: ‘Katie I think you’re little brother would love to see that beautiful picture.’ This really boosts their self-esteem and is beneficial to both children.
It’s also good to be aware that families come in all shapes and sizes. Sensitivity to different situations can make a big difference, for example, remembering to send home two reports to children with two families, or giving parents the option to pop in for a chat if they are working late on parents’ evening. These are little things that parents will really appreciate.
Find the parents who are great teachers
It’s great to ask parents to volunteer and you’ll be surprised by the amount of responses you’ll receive if you just ask. One teacher highlighted to me how beneficial this support can be when she talked about Amira’s mum. Amira is an amazing reader and having seen her mum come into school to read with other children in the class it’s clear why. Her knowledge of phonics and ability to explain and encourage could put most teachers to shame. It’s important to remember that not all children will receive this kind of support at home for a variety of reasons. Parents like Amira’s mum are invaluable because they can give all children the opportunity for some extra 1:1 time. Having parents in to read with children has made a huge impact on attainment in our class.
Encourage parents to join in
Create as many opportunities for parents to join in as possible. Ask for volunteers for school trips, hold open mornings so that they can see what their children get up to at school and feedback sessions so they can share their thoughts with you. Send letters home letting parents know what they’ll children will be covering each term and host family challenge events based on topics and learning. The more options the better, this way everyone will have the chance to get involved in school life. The more time the parents spend in school, the better your relationship will be. The child’s education will begin to feel like a partnership, which is how it should be.