Slide 1: Welcome! I’m Marcquis Parham with WordFarmers Associates, and I’m here to present a slideshow on communicating with parents. This slideshow has been prepared on behalf of the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation at the University of Cincinnati’s Systems Development and Improvement Center.
Slide 2: In some school districts, communicating with parents is a formal or expected part of the role of paraeducators. In other districts, communicating with parents is not part of the role, but it happens informally, nonetheless. Whether communication with parents is formal or informal, you should remember that, first and foremost, you are part of an instructional team. The team may include just two people—you and your mentor teacher, or it may include several parapros and several teachers. Whatever the specifics, parapros do not act on their own, but instead represent the instructional team when they speak with parents.
Slide 3: Some districts are very clear that official communication with parents is the responsibility of teachers and administrators, not paraprofessionals. But even these districts recognize that contact between parents and paraprofessionals is frequent and common. These districts tell paraprofessionals not to answer complicated questions, but to refer parents to teachers (or to the team). And they may also remind parapros to share parents’ concerns with mentor teachers and other instructional team members.
Slide 4: This slideshow presents three simple principles for communicating with parents that should fit well with the policies adopted by most local districts.
Slide 5: Here are the three principles. First, refer issues to the mentor teacher or the instructional team. Unless specifically authorized by the instructional team, you should not act as the spokesperson for the team. Second, when you chat informally with parents, it’s important to stick to topics other than those relating to instruction or other school matters. And third, it’s critical that you talk only about the parent’s own child or children, not about other children.
Slide 6: These principles put limits on what and how you communicate with parents. And adhering to them may feel unnatural at first. You may, for instance, interact with parents who come to the school to drop off their children or to pick them up. Or you may live in the same community as parents and may talk with them on many occasions. Or mutual friends may ask about a student or a student’s family.
Slide 7: Such circumstances present challenges for paraprofessionals. Not jumping in and communicating can, in fact, be vexing. For example, if there are difficulties, some parents may want you to side with them. Or, you may hold an opinion you think they should know about. Or you might think that mutual friends would have some good ideas. These are natural impulses in ordinary everyday life.
Slide 8: You are in this situation, however, because of your employment as a paraprofessional. And that changes everything! In your role as a paraprofessional—because it is your job—you have to be much more guarded than you probably would be in everyday life with friends and neighbors in your community.
Slide 9: As a member of the instructional team, you’ll be part of discussions and you will know things that you might feel parents should know, too. Such communications are for the team to make, however. Of course, sometimes the team may specifically enlist your help. In that case, you should ask for explicit instructions from your mentor teacher about what and how you should communicate with the parent or group of parents. Keep in mind, though, that, without authorization, your interactions may do more harm than good.
Slide 10: Your communication with parents therefore needs to be part of what your mentor teacher or your instructional team explicitly plans and then asks you to carry out. Of course, not every communication can be planned. But the ground rules for communication with parents can be planned, and the first two principles—referring parents to the team and talking about non-school topics—can help with that planning.
Slide 11: Remember that the work of the team is the important thing and that the team—not you alone—makes decisions about students’ education. You are there to help. It’s tempting to include parents in the help you are providing to their children by talking with them about their children’s performance, behavior, or social interactions. But avoid the temptation: share parents’ concerns with the teacher or team and let the teacher or the team to decide how to respond.
Slide 12: When you talk with parents, keep the conversation friendly—either purely social or focused on a practical purpose, such as delivering materials to the parent or reminding the parent to send in a permission slip. And always remember to keep information about students confidential.
Slide 13: Thank you for tuning into our slideshow about communicating with parents. We think you might also like our slideshow in Unit 7, which focuses on interagency collaboration.