An elementary school principal and father explains how to open up communication between parents and teachers, with advice on how parents can get involved in the classroom and what to do if you think a certain teacher isn’t right for your child.
Communication between parents and teachers is an essential component to ensuring a positive learning environment for all students. Christopher Ogno, principal of P.S. 247, The New York City College Partnership Elementary School in Brooklyn, offers helpful tips to both parents and teachers, with suggestions on how to make sure that communication is strong and that children are happy, successful, and safe in the classroom.
What is the best way you’ve found to encourage effective parent-teacher communication?
A: Within our building, we do monthly newsletters and we encourage having the parents in our building as much as possible. We invite parents in the lower grades to come in monthly to work with their children in reading and math. In grades pre-k through first we want to establish that rapport in the beginning so parents feel welcome in the building. We also do writing celebrations in all grades, with at least six to eight celebrations a year where parents come in and see their children as authors. Really the encouragement is to get the parents in as often as possible to share in the children’s celebration of learning. I think that’s the best way to build that rapport.
What’s a good way for teachers and parents to build good communication?
A: I think it’s really important that teachers make an initial contact with the parents, and that they reach out to the parents by phone. At our school we do Parent Teas, which is a curriculum day where the parents in grades kindergarten through fifth all come out to visit the classrooms and to meet the teachers, which is done early in the year. The quicker you establish that contact, especially on a positive note, the better it’s going to be for you during the year in terms of the communication.
Do you encourage one-on-one meetings between parents and teachers in addition to the regularly scheduled parent/teacher conferences?
A: Without a doubt. We encourage it, and we expect it. We ask that the teachers contact that parents with any concerns and also to celebrate children’s achievements. Any time there’s a concern, we ask teachers to meet with parents, even if we need to free the teacher up to meet with the parents. If you want to know what makes a school successful, it’s a partnership. You have to have a committed administration that’s going to support the teachers and the parents. You need parents who are involved and have their kids prepared to come to school and learn. That connection, that’s the success.
What should parents do if they feel a certain teacher isn’t the right fit for their child?
A: If a parent feels that there’s a problem in the relationship between the teacher and the child, then the parent needs to speak with the principal. At that point, as a parent, I would encourage the parent to come to the school, speak to the teacher, and see what can be done to better support the relationship.
It’s going to be different with everyone. There are many factors: the age of the child, what the situation is, what the concerns for the parents are. Each situation is different and I never say that I’m not going to change classes. It’s going to be on a case by case basis. If I’m a parent, what I want is for my child to be happy and successful, and I think that’s what any administrator wants too. Parents and educators want children happy in school and they want them safe and successful. In my building I always leave the option open to changing the child’s class, but I usually try to meet with the teacher and parents first. I like to get a feel for what the problem is and see if it can be worked out where the child is happy and successful in the classroom. If not, then I’m always open to change.
Christopher Ogno is the principal of P.S. 247, The New York City College Partnership Elementary School in Brooklyn, which recently received the National Title I Distinguished Schools Award. Ogno received his Masters in Education and a six-year certificate in administrative supervision from Staten Island College. He lives in Staten Island and has two children (ages 9 and 13) who attend public school.