Beginning of Year Relationship Building
W hether students are entering school for the first time, transitioning to a new grade, or navigating distance learning during a pandemic, something that remains true is trusting relationships between educators and families are the foundation for a successful school year for students. With a trusting relationship – built intentionally, thoughtfully, and at the beginning of the year – educators and families operate as partners, ensuring students have what they need.
Family engagement is people work — sharing yourself authentically with families will help quickly build trust and rapport. Creating a strong sense of shared humanity can help us feel connected.
|Center on the student.
Ask about hopes, dreams, and expectations. This is an incredible opportunity for the teacher, student, and family to align on what’s most important to each of them in supporting the student’s academic success.
|Focus on what is important to the family.
These conversations should emphasize building connections. Focus on the relationship while following the family’s lead. Some families might want to share and get to know your background; others might want academic information. Many will want both!
|Consistency is key.
Relationships take time. These strategies will start the process of building relationships. Still, it is frequent and consistent communication that allows relationships to grow and sustain, especially if you do not have the opportunity to connect frequently with families in-person.
|All families receive outreach.
Every family deserves to have a trusting relationship with their child’s teacher. Families should see that relationship building is for everyone!
The impact of relationship building
[The beginning of the year] meetings gave the opportunity to build a relationship before school even started so, once we started, I got the same welcome feeling from [the teacher], and it just continued.
Washington, DC Parent
School Leader Moves
Leadership has a clear and essential role in creating the conditions for meaningful engagement to thrive:
Family engagement is a living, breathing part of the culture, systems, and structures of the school.
The school community recognizes the assets and strengths of all students and families, interrupts bias, and challenges assumptions.
School improvements and innovations are informed by a diverse sampling of family input, especially from those historically excluded from decision making.
All families are given the opportunity to engage in a meaningful partnership based on trust and consistent communication, regardless of their child’s grade or classroom.