Interactions with parents in the classroom are often so influential in a teacher’s day than they can make or break the love for teaching. While the occasional whining, bickering, and criticism of parents can be a downer, most parents’ desires for their children are in line with an educator’s general philosophy: to love, to learn, and to live kindly.
Whether you are a young teacher or a veteran, it can be uncomfortable to have another adult in the classroom. Many teachers who feel free and easy in front of their young audience have a tendency to freeze up when another adult is occupying their educational ‘stage’.
Here are a few suggestions about how to turn the parents of your students into a helpful fleet of assistants. Seize the opportunity you have to enlist helpers and don’t feel like you need to run a one-(wo)man-show. You have, at your fingertips, a free labor force with a vested interest in the success of your classroom. Use them!
1. Read-aloud Guests
Invite parents to sign up for a slot on a roster of Weekly Guest Readers. Set up a consistent time at the end of the week where parents can come in for a 30-minute time period to read a book of their choice aloud to your students. Parents can read books that are special to their family, share about their native language or culture, or include information about a subject of personal interest.
Try to set up the time around the normal lunch hour so that parents are more likely to have time off from their jobs. During this short break, you can organize the weekend homework folders, newsletters, or pass back papers to go home.
This is also a great way for teachers in your school who are parents to visit their children in your classroom.
2. Monthly Birthday Parent
If you celebrate the month’s birthdays in one wing-dinger of a party at the end of the month, ask one or two parents (preferably the parents of the “birthday student(s)”) to organize healthy refreshments and a few sweet treats. They can be in charge of food and clean-up, relieving you of those extra duties.
3. Reading Buddy
Have a reading buddy reward system that guarantees one lucky student the chance to read with a parent for 30 minutes at the end of the month. The reward can be given based on the number of books read in a month, Accelerated Reader points, and student consistency in turning in book reports or book bags, or based on classroom library “good stewardship”.
4. Book Club E-Pals
Have a monthly book club for both students and parents. Students and parents can read the same title (it could even be part of your weekly homework assignment), either together or separately, and write emails to one another about discussion topics for the book. This is a great way to get parents involved in your classroom without actually having them in your classroom.
5. Expert Interviews
Invite parents into your classroom to talk as an expert in their field or job. Ask them to dress up according to their career requirements or email a few photos of them at their workplace as visual aids for their talk.
6. Show and Tell: Adult Edition
Host a “Show and Tell” event for parents. Ask them to bring in their favorite piece of artwork or song and explain why they love it. Suggest that they bring in a childhood toy or a family heirloom to discuss. The show and tell items could be varied or specifically assigned by you, but they will no doubt be engaging.
7. Cooking Class
Ask parents to host a cooking class, in which they demonstrate the steps for a simple recipe. This event could be incorporated into a nutrition unit, fraction unit, or how-to writing unit as a final project.
Remember that you and your students’ parents typically want the same thing in the end, and that with gentle guidance and organized planning, parents can become a blessing, rather than a “stressing” in your classroom.