I teach an online course for future teachers in a master’s degree program. I was grading journal post last night when I read a student’s journal entry detailing her fears about interacting (or failure to interact) with parents. She was candid in describing possible scenarios. “What if a parent had a horrible school experience and hates teachers?” “What if the family doesn’t value education?” “What if I don’t make a good impression?” “What if I cannot connect with them at all?”

I asked myself, “What if I give her the wrong advice?” I found myself falling into the trap of fear and doubt that she carried. I’m a veteran teacher with 20 years experience dealing with parents. I know better. I know that being my authentic self is all I can be, and it’s good enough. I love teaching, and this student is obviously worrying herself sick over ‘what ifs.’ Her anxiety was reaching toxic levels. I thought about the most honest and heartfelt (hopefully helpful) advice I could give her. I told her to highlight the student’s strengths. I encouraged her to send notes home with the child

to report effort, acts of kindness, and any improvement. They send a clear message that you are noticing their child’s growth, and you care about their child. It will help build a bridge that may undo preconceived notions about the teacher or the school. This is crucial if they’ve lived their life with negative memories of a bad experience. A student that goes home happy and feeling supported is bound to share that with their parents. A teacher’s job is to make sure they get to know their students, let them know you value them for who they are.

Too often parents are not part of a student’s support team. That is a signal that the teacher needs to give even more of their heart and time to that student.

It’s good to give a glance at the what ifs, but more important is to be proactive in how you will connect with your students. What if you make a real difference? What if the parents want to decide to become involved? What if that student remembers you all their life?

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