How can you talk to parents who don’t seem to care?

As every trainee teacher knows, motivating students who seem disengaged from learning is a fundamental classroom skill. To many practising teachers, it’s actually among the most rewarding aspects of the profession.

Less expected: disengaged parents. In fact, meeting a parent who doesn’t seem to care about their child’s educational progress can be one of the most dispiriting experiences a teacher faces. It feels as if your efforts now need to double, and succeed in spite of the parent – when it should be with their support.

Traditionally, teachers had few options for tackling this beyond a face-to-face discussion. Digital solutions, however, open up a whole new world of channels and techniques to try. In this week’s blog, we suggest three key ones.

It’s worth saying, however, that having that face-to-face chat remains vital. These ideas work best in support, rather than as substitutes.

Share facts as well as opinions

Some parents might not be convinced by anecdotal feedback on their child, and might just see it as ‘your opinion’. But if you can back it up with data, then the case becomes stronger.

Data also gives you both parameters to work around. For example, if a student’s attendance record is poor, proving this to a parent establishes a metric you can – together – agree to monitor and work on with the student.

A solution such as TeacherKit offers you several of these measures to use. Attendance, behavior, grades – all these and more can be tracked and assessed, compared and shared in simple yet compelling formats.

Keep the dialogue light and frequent

A traditional ‘meeting with the parents’ can feel somewhat formal and laden with seriousness, for both parties. In some cases, it can therefore end up an uncomfortable, isolated and unfruitful episode, that does less than is needed to build bridges between a school and parents.

Far better is an ongoing dialogue. Especially one that feels less formal, and that deals with things in small yet frequent steps.

Digital channels are ideal for this. Whether it’s sending an email or a brief SMS, or enabling parents to see and make comments – on either a student’s work or your communications with them – there are a host of digital ways you can incrementally and continuously involve parents.

Best of all, none of these need be obtrusive, or an obligation on the parent.

Share stories, not just grades and concerns

If all the information a parent ever receives about their child is grade scores and ‘concerns’ about performance, it’s easy for a culture of negativity to persist.

The more you share positive and ‘general’ insights into their school life, the better. Digital channels make this easy. Uploading video clips and images, sharing presentations that children have done as assignments – so long as you use an agreed and secure channel, these needn’t be onerous, on you or the parent.

Even the most lighthearted and simple thing helps – grab a group of students for a quick classroom selfie while they’re happily working on something, and share it with the parents. This brings the world of social media (that parents are sure to value and participate in), into the world of education – helping make the latter seem less alien and distant. It may be a small thing, but it helps.

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