Let’s Chat! Getting to Know Your Students’ Families

Hello, teacher friends!  I am SO excited and honored to be serving as a guest blogger for Minds in Bloom!  Thank you, Rachel, for allowing me to contribute to one of my all time favorite educational blogs!  My name is Brooke Brown from Teaching Outside the Box, and today I’m talking about getting to know your students’ families.
Getting to know your students' families is an important step at the beginning of each new school year. Some schools have "Back to School" or "Meet the Teacher" nights, and some schools require home visits. This guest blogger shares the system in her school, where teachers have "chats" with families to help them learn important information about their students.

Today, I’d like to share one of my FAVORITE ways to connect with students’ families at the beginning of the school year: “chats!”  Essentially, a “chat” is an informal, 10-minute scheduled meeting with your new parents that establishes a positive first impression while helping YOU to get to know your students’ interests, strengths, needs, goals, and backgrounds from each family’s perspective.

I recommend that “chats” be scheduled either before school, after school, or during your planning period and spread across several days during the second and third weeks of school.  “Chats” are most beneficial when held in person, but they can also be held over the phone to accommodate busy schedules. Now, I know what many of you must be thinking: a VOLUNTARY parent-teacher conference?!  During the CRAZY first weeks of school?!  Possibly outside of contractual hours?!  NOOOOO WAY!  When I first transferred to my school district many years ago and learned that my teammates would be holding “chats,” I thought the same thing.

Until I realized the long term benefits of establishing that positive first impression and an open line of communication with parents right off the bat.  “Chats” are the optimal time to build the foundation and mutual trust for a partnership with your students and families, connecting with them on a personal level as opposed to an academic level.  The social/emotional needs of your students are just as important as their academic needs, and their family background is a huge piece of that!  Perhaps they have a unique learning style or a disability that you hadn’t noticed yet.  Perhaps they have a complicated home life or social difficulties.  Perhaps they have a hearing or visual impairment that requires accommodations in their learning environment.  All of these factors critically influence students’ overall success in the classroom and allow you to set them up for that success.  And what better time than the most crucial and influential time of the school year: the first few weeks of school?!  At this point in the year, you will not feel obligated to discuss and share academic records with parents and instead will focus on building powerful relationships.

Here’s how “chats” are set up!  Place a table tent with instructions out at your Back to School or Meet the Teacher Night.  You’ll also need to put out sign-up sheets, filled in with dates and times that are convenient for you on the forms. (Do NOT feel guilty about scheduling these times according to your preference.  You have a personal life, too!)

Getting to know your students' families is an important step at the beginning of each new school year. Some schools have "Back to School" or "Meet the Teacher" nights, and some schools require home visits. This guest blogger shares the system in her school, where teachers have "chats" with families to help them learn important information about their students.

If a family is unable to attend during those designated time slots, that’s okay!  It’s your call whether to devote additional time or simply let it go.  I usually have about 50-75% of my families sign up for “chats,” and depending on the culture of your school, it will likely vary.  Any connections you can make will serve in your favor.  Also, make enough copies for each student of the “Getting to Know Your Child” Questionnaire.  This form is for the parents to fill out at home and bring with them to their scheduled “chat.”  After “chats” I always keep this form at the front of my student files and then place in their intervention files as necessary at the end of the school year.  These questionnaires are often very telling and significant for each student, and I referred to them often, so even if you don’t schedule “chats,” I’d recommend using them anyway.

Getting to know your students' families is an important step at the beginning of each new school year. Some schools have "Back to School" or "Meet the Teacher" nights, and some schools require home visits. This guest blogger shares the system in her school, where teachers have "chats" with families to help them learn important information about their students.

Prior to each child’s “chat,” send home a reminder note for their scheduled time.

Getting to know your students' families is an important step at the beginning of each new school year. Some schools have "Back to School" or "Meet the Teacher" nights, and some schools require home visits. This guest blogger shares the system in her school, where teachers have "chats" with families to help them learn important information about their students.

During “chats” use these forms to take notes regarding each child: concerns, next steps, classroom accommodations, parent requests, goals, etc.  Documentation always serves in your favor!

Getting to know your students' families is an important step at the beginning of each new school year. Some schools have "Back to School" or "Meet the Teacher" nights, and some schools require home visits. This guest blogger shares the system in her school, where teachers have "chats" with families to help them learn important information about their students.

Interested in giving “chats” a try this fall?  Download my FREE packet of resources that has EVERYTHING you need!

Getting to know your students' families is an important step at the beginning of each new school year. Some schools have "Back to School" or "Meet the Teacher" nights, and some schools require home visits. This guest blogger shares the system in her school, where teachers have "chats" with families to help them learn important information about their students.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and thank you again, Rachel, for allowing me to share! I’ll “chat” with you soon!


Teaching Outside the BoxBrooke is currently a Gifted Resource Coordinator for early childhood students in Norman, Oklahoma. She has been teaching for 11 years, with 10 of those years in the regular classroom with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders.  She lives in Norman with her husband, Andy, and two children, Ellie and Beau.  She is addicted to creating classroom resources that enrich, motivate, and simplify! You can connect with Brooke on her blog or in her TPT store.
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