Simple relationship building skills – such as messages of thanks and regular, warm communication – are the keys to creating a strong bond between teachers and parents, which in turn can have a powerful effect on a child’s outcomes at school.

That’s the reassuring message from respected Canadian education academic and former school principal Dr Linda Kaser, who is one of the world’s leading experts on parent engagement in schools.

Dr Kaser who will share her knowledge with schools at a special Independent Schools Queensland ‘Research-in-Schools Parent Engagement’ event next week (October 21, 2020), said when parent engagement strategies worked well the benefits were profound for everyone.

“You get greater student learning, staff pride in their repertoires and a great sense of teacher efficacy,’’ she said.

“You also get trusting relationships that allow you to move forward through good times and bad.’’

Parent engagement expert Dr Linda Kaser

Dr Kaser said research had shown that mutually respectful relationships between teachers and parents had a substantial impact on students’ learning results over a five-year period.

“Recent studies…(also) indicate that schools that weave the adults together more closely benefit everyone – the school and the community.’’

What teachers can do

Of course a productive and healthy relationship requires both parties to play their part.

Dr Kaser says schools communicating information to parents in a regular, co-ordinated way and bringing families on the learning journey with their child, by sharing what is being taught, is important for building rapport.

“In some schools teachers fear parent involvement and only call home when they need to report a problem,’’ she says.

“(But) when teachers send a very short text every Friday afternoon to two parents with a ‘this is something that went well for your child this week’ information item – that can really help foster connections.

“That pattern, repeated throughout the year, is not time consuming but has high impact.’’

School-wide communication – potentially on the same day every week – is also an effective “family-friendly” practice for schools to adopt.

“Many teachers mean well but lack a regular rhythm for communicating all sorts of information to parents,’’ she says.

“It helps if the whole school develops a family-friendly stance and coordinates key communication vehicles so that parents know events and deadlines early.’’

Parents also play an important role

Dr Kaser stressed that parents can also do much to strengthen the school-home relationship and value-add to their child’s school learning.

She offered these five tips for families:

  • Be genuinely interested in creating a daily dialogue with your child about what is being learned at school.
  • Make an effort to find out something about your child’s teacher that they find personally interesting. “Are they hikers, walkers, dog or cat fans…? Try to make a personal link,’’ she advises.
  • Teachers are people too! “Teachers are invaluable,’’ she says. “If yours does something good, a quick text describing the impact on your child can be a big boost.”
  • Share information with the teacher about your child. “Let your teacher know things your child is curious about outside of school,’’ she urges.
  • You are your child’s first and continuing teacher. “Sometimes the way we use skills like reading and writing and mathematics as adults is invisible to young people (because it takes place mainly at work, for example). Educators are trying to do a better job of linking learning to life. Make your use of skills “visible” (to your child) and talk about when you learned them and how you are applying them.”

A re-cap on parent engagement

‘Parent engagement’ is a concept backed up by 50 years of academic research that shows when parents and educators work together and respect each other’s unique contributions to a child’s education, the child’s academic achievement and wellbeing soars.

Read more about parent engagement in our most recent story.

Download our one-page factsheet on parent engagement.

Read about the partnership between Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network and Independent Schools Queensland to develop an overarching Parent and Community Engagement Strategy for member schools.

Read in detail about parent engagement and how schools can implement effective strategies in the recently released report The Parent Engagement Implementation Guide by Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY).

There is a rich well of information and research about parent engagement on our website.

There are also many wonderful websites with tips and advice for parents who want to connect school learning with life at home, which we have compiled on our website.