Parents — whether they’re biological parents, legal guardians, grandparents, or other family members who are primary caregivers — can be the most critical partners you have in your students’ academic journeys. How can you build effective relationships that help students to succeed?

This article provides ideas and methods that can help teachers and parents work together as invaluable allies who nurture student motivation and learning. As an educator and a parent who has lived in rural, small town, suburban, and urban communities across the United States, I am confident that in all communities, parents, primary caregivers, and educators are concerned and competent people who want to effectively help young people thrive.

As you read on, you’ll discover five interconnected sections that are relevant to new teachers and also to school improvement: learning from literature, developing two-way communication, resolving problems, rethinking homework, and creating school improvement partnerships. But first, I’d like to begin with a brief discussion of terms and definitions.

Terms and definitions

It is a challenge to find language that means the same thing to everyone. Word choice both influences and represents how we think. The terms “parent” and “caregiver” are used interchangeably here. While “parent” doesn’t automatically acknowledge grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members who raise children, it is commonly accepted that there are many different kinds of parents such as birth, custodial, and intergenerational. Their love and commitment to the child are what unites them and defines them as parents.

I also prefer the term “participation” to “involvement,” because to many people, “involvement” has come to mean something that educators do to parents as oppose to with parents.

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