Seven Secrets to Effective Teacher-Parent Communication

In my last post, I identified ten ways that teachers could establish effective communication with parents. Communication however, is a two way street.  Parents also have a responsibility and an opportunity to establish a relationship with their child’s teacher. Here are seven ways to create open communication while empowering your child to be a leader in their own right:

Seven Secrets to Effective Teacher-Parent Communication

  1. Express appreciation- Everyone wants to be appreciated-teachers included. Look for a way early on to express your gratitude for the teacher’s hard work and dedication in the classroom.  Even if you have areas of concern, begin with the positive and set a positive tone.
  2. Determine the regular routines for communication and stay engaged-Does work go home once weekly or daily? How often should you check agendas, backpacks, special folders? Is there a weekly newsletter that you can read to stay abreast of classroom activities?  Be proactive and don’t wait for there to be a problem to get involved.
  3. Determine the time frames that teachers are available and respect them– Do they prefer a note?  an email?  When is it too late to call?   We all have busy, complicated lives that involve juggling many roles and teachers need time with their families away from the demands of work.
  4. Be authentic–Let teachers know about changes and challenges that your child may be facing.  Is the family going through a stressful time at home?  Have they been sick?  Are they on medication that might affect their performance?  Any of these things can impact a child’s ability to focus and excel  in the classroom.  The more the teacher knows about your particular child, the better the chance they will connect in a positive way.
  5. Be open to suggestions– Even if it is a new way of doing things, listen when teachers suggest alternative ways of teaching a child new concepts.  What may have worked well previously may not be the best approach as your child develops and changes. You don’t have to follow every suggestion but honor the request with your attention.
  6. Share your expertise and insight-As a parent,  you are the expert on your child. You know their history, their abilities and their quirks.  Share what you know so teachers can teach to their strengths.
  7. Encourage and empower your child to be an effective communicator and leader-While it’s important for you as the parent to stay involved with your child’s teacher, it’s equally important for your child to learn what they are responsible for and how to communicate their needs.  Communicating with the teacher doesn’t mean taking over your child’s responsibilities or solving all their problems for them.  Instead, model for them how to be a leader and problem solver in their own life.  As it is age appropriate, transfer that responsibility for  effective communication to them.  After all it is their academic success and only they can achieve it.

Other ideas?  I’d love to hear them in the comments section…

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Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Friendship

It’s not easy being the new kid at school, especially if you are a cat and everyone else is a dog.  How do you make friends?  Can you even be friends with someone who is totally different from you?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog helps solve Ami’s friendship problem with empathy and compassion. A great story for teaching children the critical life skill of making friends.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog-Friendship Cover (1)

Wyatt Learns about Friendship

parent teacher meeting

Ten Secrets to Effective Parent-Teacher Communication

As the school year begins, an important part of starting school for every teacher is establishing communication with parents.  This is especially true in the younger years but even in later years, teachers have a responsibility to keep parents informed.  Depending on how you set up your system, this can be a chore or an opportunity to engage parents in a positive way in their child’s education.  Here are ten ways to insure success without stressing yourself out…

Ten Secrets to Effective Parent-Teacher Communication

  1. Have a plan for positive feedback-Every parent wants their child to be successful and you can start the year off on a positive note by sharing something positive in the first week of school with parents.  Since kids are usually on their best behavior for the first week or so, this shouldn’t be too hard!  Make sure every parent hears something positive from you about their child.
  2. Set boundaries around your time and let parents know what they are–Be clear about when you can answer questions and at what point you are available to respond to emails and/or phone calls.  This is important for parents but it’s also important for your peace of mind. You are doing yourself and the parents a favor when you define the time that  you are off work and spending time with your own family.
  3. Have regular routines for communication-Let parents know what they can expect from you.  Does work go home once weekly or daily? How often should they check agendas, backpacks, special folders?  Don’t assume parents will just naturally understand what you expect.  Make it clear from the beginning… then remind them periodically.  We all have busy, complicated lives that involve juggling many roles.
  4. Be authentic–Let parents know something about you and your own story.  If you are a parent with preschoolers and juggling your career with being a parent, let parents know.  If you are working on your masters at night and teaching during the day, share that.  This doesn’t mean you are looking for sympathy or support (hopefully you are getting that elsewhere!), just that the more real you are with others, the better the chance you will connect in a positive way.
  5. Be open to suggestions– Even if you’ve done something the same way for the last fifteen years, listen when parents suggest changing in some way.  What may have worked well in the beginning, may no longer be the best way to stay in touch. You don’t have to follow every suggestion or whim but honor the request with your attention.
  6. Be aware that everything you do is communication-While there are many formal ways that you will communicate, be aware that everything you do is communication.  Even displaying student work, jotting a quick note on a homework paper or the wording in your weekly newsletter or your class website, leaves a permanent impression of who you are.  Always consider how it will come across to others.
  7. Express gratitude-Teachers are usually great at writing thank you notes for end of the year gifts but what about a thank you for the parent who spent time running off copies for you or the one who was a chaperon during the field trip?  Again, it doesn’t have to be a formal note.  A smile and a sincere thanks can work just as well.
  8. Recognize parent effort-Most parents are putting forth a lot of effort to be the best they know how to be.  Be sure to give them a compliment even for things that we might consider “expected”.  Thank them for taking the time to attend a meeting or for making sure their child completes homework, for example. You never know the effort or the story behind the end result.
  9. Share your expertise and insight-As a teacher, you have the benefit of knowing various ways to differentiate and improve the teaching experience. You also have the benefit of teaching a wide variety of abilities.  Share what you know and see so parents can extend the lesson at home.
  10. Prepare parents ahead of time for meetings–Most parents don’t know what to expect when they attend meetings. For many, it is an intimidating experience. Prepare them ahead of time by letting them know the time frame, who will be there, the content and the decisions that may be made at the meeting.  This will help parents not only be more comfortable but will give them some insight into what questions they might have.

Other ideas?  I’d love to hear them in the comments section…


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Know someone who is starting kindergarten?

Wyatt Goes to Kindergarten

Wyatt has never liked change, at least not at first.  Once he tries something new, he usually finds he really likes it.  Now that he is about to begin kindergarten, Wyatt is really worried.  Will he make friends?  Will he get lost in the new school?  Will he miss his mom?  Join Wyatt in his latest “wonder-full” adventure!Wyatt-kKindergarten_thumb
Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Goes to Kindergarten

Conversation together

Characteristics of a great counselor


I was recently at a luncheon talking with some elementary school principals about school counselors and an evaluation method they are required to complete yearly on school counselors.  The instrument was so complex that they had to attend special training  to learn to use it properly. The evaluation emphasized collecting data in order to  prove the impact and success of the counselor.  One principal commented, “There is so much stress on data collection, the counselor can’t do her job.”

Has technology and data collection taken the heart out of the school counseling system?

In a recent article in Edutopia the question was asked,  What does it mean to be a great teacher?  Interestingly enough, excels at collecting data or has great test scores was not even on the list. While the six characteristics that were listed might be hard to quantify, they are definitely at the heart of teaching.  I’ve modified it a bit for counselors.

Six characteristics of a great counselor

A great counselor is kind–  Modeling and teaching kindness is an important part of every lesson and interaction for the school counselor.  Many counselors encourage random acts of kindness and encourage students to look for opportunities to pay it forward.

A great counselor is compassionate– Counselors are often called to love those students most difficult to understand and love.  Counselors take the time to understand the story behind the behavior and show compassion despite the difficulties.

A great counselor is empathetic– Counselors not only walk in a student’s shoes,  they often carry students when they can’t walk on their own. Counselors are a shoulder to cry on and a hand to lift you up when you are down.

A great counselor is positive-While they don’t ignore the challenges, counselors see what is possible for every student and share that vision with them. They are great encouragers and often believe in students when they don’t yet believe in themselves

A great counselor is a builder– Counselors equip children for the future.  They don’t leave them where they find them but they teach them the tools for becoming the best they can be.  Counselors are relationship builders.  They build relationships among students and adults without regard for age or  status. They model for others the importance of relationships and  how to create positive relationships in their own lives.

A great counselor is inspiring- Counselors inspire with their lessons and their words but they also inspire with their actions.  Counselors give direction to students’s lives and provide the necessary guidance needed to achieve goals that seem impossible.

What would you add as a quality of a great counselor?


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Wyatt’s Little Book of Lesson Plans, Worksheets and Games

Just for you!  Here are activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, coloring sheets, word search puzzles and games for each of the six Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books. A treasure trove of grab ‘n go lessons on cooperation, teamwork and leadership skills to quickly extend and incorporate the Wyatt stories.

What is your superpower?

What is your child’s superpower?

in a memorable TED talk, scientist and researcher, Ted Benson asks the question,  What is the spark that each child carries within and how can we as educators, parents and other influencers of youth, encourage and fan the flames of that spark?

Benson believes that every child has a unique spark, a personal superpower, a special light to shine in the world but by the time children are adults only a fourth of them are following on the path of their spark. The other three fourths are  lost and discouraged. Not only is this detrimental to the child, but the world has also lost the benefit of their gifts and super power. How can we turn this around?

Listen and Observe

Often as the adults in a child’s life, our focus is on doing:  we teach, we measure results, we inform, we engage and we interact. What if before we focused on doing, we first focused on learning and understanding?

Spend time observing the children in your life and notice their unique gifts.  Too often we focus on the negative.  John is failing math.  Suzy can’t run fast and George’s handwriting is illegible.  Instead take notice of the abilities they do have.  Ask the question:  What makes you happiest?  What gives you energy?  According to Benson, sparks or superpowers fall into one of three categories:  a skill or talent, a commitment or a quality or characteristic.  Maybe your student is exceptional in math.  Maybe they are dedicated to caring for animals.  Maybe they have empathy for others.

Reflect and Encourage

Once you have identified a child’s spark or super power, take the opportunity to reflect it to them.  Point out what a natural they are at making music or playing baseball.  Recognize how they always think of others and encourage them to continue to be kind to the new kid who doesn’t have friends yet.  Notice their commitment to the environment or rescuing dogs in the local shelter.

Provide  Opportunities

As you recognize their superpower, provide them with opportunities to expand their gift and share it with others.  Maybe you help them create an after school club about caring for the environment or visit shelters to help with caring for rescue dogs.  Perhaps you enroll them in dance or art classes.  Maybe it is as simple at taking them to the library so they can nurture their love of reading and writing stories.  Not every child needs to be  the All Star athlete or valedictorian to shine.  There are many ways that educators and parents can provide opportunities for children to shine their light in the world and ignite the fire within.

Want to watch Ted Benson’s Ted Talk?




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Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning

Wyatt the Wonder Dog didn’t make it on the All Star baseball team and he feels like a loser.  All  his friends will be playing baseball this summer, while he and his pesky sister, Callie, visit grandparents at the beach.  How Wyatt learns to handle disappointment and failure will be an important lesson for the future.  Will he give up trying new things?  Will he have the confidence to try again?  Are there some things that take more practice and persistence to learn than others? Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns About Winning
Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Winning (Wyatt the Wonder Dog Books) (Volume 5)

School Boy Running Late with Supplies on White

Parenting and Teaching the High Energy Child

Is there a student in your class who is the energizer bunny?  Always moving… always talking?

Is your child a bundle of energy and curiosity, moving from one activity to another but never completing anything?

Does your child love interaction and being in the center of attention?

Then you are probably blessed with a child with an I personality style.

The Four Basic Personality Styles

According to the DISC personality program, there are four basic personality styles.  We are all blends of these.  Here are the characteristics of each.:

D:  dominant, determined, decisive

I:  interactive, inspiring, influential

S:  stable, sweet, supportive

C:  competent, cautious, conscientious

Strategies for the High I Child

What can you do to help the high “I” child succeed? Encourage the high ‘I’ child with short term goals and recognition, so they will flourish. At the same time they need to have clear boundaries and be held accountable and responsible. Just as they are great at influencing and encouraging others they can also lean toward manipulating others with their charming personality.  Don’t let them talk their way out of the necessary chores and details of life!

The energizing fuel for this personality is FUN!  You will get better cooperation if you can inject some element of fun into their responsibilities.  Perhaps make tasks into a game or contest. Resist bailing them out if they fail to follow-through though and help them develop the discipline necessary to accomplish their goals.

 Your Parent/Teaching Personality Style Matters

As always, your own personality style can influence how you parent.

  • If you are a high ‘D’ personality style, you will need to remember that the ‘I’ personality is more concerned about relationships and having fun than results.  Your skill in accomplishing the goals is something the ‘I’ personality can benefit from learning.  Help them learn to transform talk into action.
  • If you are also  ‘I’ wired  then you will have a lot in common with your fun-loving and social child.  However, make sure that you help them develop organizational skills and responsibility as well.
  • If you are  ‘S’ wired  keeping up with the pace of this active and outgoing child can be a challenge for you.  You must learn to set firm limits and follow through, since her charming and fast-talking ability can leave you wondering how you got persuaded into something you had no intention of doing.  Hold her accountable and do not overdo for her.
  • If you are “C’ wired, you must first recognize that your personality is exactly opposite of that of your ‘I’ wired child.  You may need to modify your high expectations and look for ways to encourage him in his strengths.  This child hungers for acceptance and recognition, so find ways to encourage them as much as they encourage others.

Finally, no matter what your wired parenting  or teaching style is, find time to enjoy your high ‘I’ child as much as they enjoy life!  They can bring sunshine and smiles into any group they are a part of.

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To download a Personality Style Information sheet that identifies the four basic personality styles and strategies for working with each one, join the pack on the sidebar!

Wyatt Learns about Being Organized

It’s time to catch the school bus and Wyatt can’t find anything.  Where is his backpack?  his lunch money? Wyatt is about to learn a valuable lesson about the importance of being organized and the benefits of planning ahead.  This adorable story offers simple helpful ideas that kids and parents can use to make life less stressful and more fun.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog: Learns About Being Organized

children at play

3 Ways to Help Kids Make Friends

What if it’s the first day of school and you are the new kid in the class?

What if you return to school after a summer off,  only to find that your best friend  has made a whole new set of friends and you aren’t in the circle any more?

What if you actually prefer solitary pursuits… reading a book, working on the computer and you don’t really have many friends?

Friendship can be a tough call for both children and adults.  How can educators and parents lend a hand?

Teach Children Self-Worth

One of the key concepts that all children need to learn and internalize is a feeling of worth and value that is inherent in their authentic self rather than based on another’s opinion. It’s easier to make a friend when you feel like you have something to offer. Recognizing their self worth also helps a child feel more secure if their offer of friendship is rejected.

Help children recognize that they are enough just as they are by learning to value their own unique personality style, gifts and talents.  Introverts don’t need to try harder to be outgoing.  Computer geeks don’t need to become jocks and not everyone is going to make straight A’s in school.  Teach children  to set reasonable goals and challenge themselves in areas where they can excel, then celebrate their success.

Teach Friendship Skills

Not everyone is a natural at making and keeping friends.  While some children may seem to attract friends like magnets, others stand on the sidelines and wonder how to begin.  As a school counselor for twenty years, I often had conversations with children who set their sights on being best friends with someone  but didn’t know how to begin the interaction. Our conversations would go something like this:

Child:  I don’t have any friends.  No one likes me.

Me:  What have you tried to make friends?

Child:  I asked Susie to play with me at recess and she said she already had someone to play with.

Me:  Did you ask someone else?

Child:  No.  Everyone else already has friends to play with.

While the situation may seem hopeless in the child’s eyes, there are obviously many directions to go in with this scenario, not the least of which is teaching persistence, focusing on the needs of others and looking for other children who may also be lonely and in need of a friend.  Usually given a few concrete ideas for how to go about interacting with others, children can experience success in making a new friend.

Teach Children to be Curious

Often helping children to re-frame the friendship experience can be helpful.  Instead of seeing themselves as the one person in the class who is friendless (probably not a true perception anyway), what if they saw their situation as an opportunity to get to know others?  What if they were curious about their classmates and what they like to do, what their favorite subject is at school (recess or lunch?) and their favorite book to read.  What if they notice who might need some help and offer a helping hand?  Expressing  curiosity about others is a great way to begin a conversation.

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Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Friendship

It’s not easy being the new kid at school, especially if you are a cat and everyone else is a dog.  How do you make friends?  Can you even be friends with someone who is totally different from you?  Wyatt the Wonder Dog helps solve Ami’s friendship problem with empathy and compassion. A great story for teaching children the critical life skill of making friends.

Wyatt the Wonder Dog-Friendship Cover (1)

Wyatt Learns about Friendship