By Matt Vangalis
Florida Virtual School
Math Instructor As a 4th year algebra teacher with Florida Virtual School, I have been connecting with virtual parents for several years and speak to at least one parent every single day. Being a distance learning educator means you donâ€™t see your students on a daily basis, thus you need all the extra help you can get to make sure your students are successful. That means relying on parental support and assistance. The only way to get that extra assistance is to create positive lasting relationships with your studentsâ€™ parents. The one common bond that all parents share is that they want to see their child succeed. So when you have a question or concern about a studentâ€™s progress, the best way to approach the parent is with a genuine concern for their childâ€™s well being. Some key elements to connecting with parents include: Bimonthly communication - Email is great because itâ€™s easy, but nothing beats speaking with parents on the phone. They hear a voice and can hear your genuine concern more than any Email ever written. Making yourself available outside of the typical nine-to-five hours is a bonus most parents are not accustomed to receiving. Be a detective - If your distance learning program does not include a welcome phone call, it should. Speaking with at least one parent prior to the start of class is a key component to building that bond which will last throughout the year. Learn as much about the family in that welcome phone call as possible. How many siblings, are both parents living in the same house, educational background, what kind of Internet connection does the family use, correct Email addresses, work numbers, etc. This information will give you valuable insight later in the year. Hold a virtual open house - Promote your open house well in advance through Emails and phone calls to your parents. Give specific instructions on what they need to do to show up. Once theyâ€™re in your chat room or whiteboard, make their arrival worthwhile. Pictures of you, your family and the class will help. Make them take an active role once they enter. Show them how to check the grade book or find important course information. Pay them a visit - Whenever possible, meet your parents.
- Schedule a study session at the local Barnes & Noble or Starbucks. Your idea for the get together is to help your students with their work, but in that process, parents will attend to meet you. That bond will help when their child is struggling.
- Attend conferences or meetings when you know your students parents will be present.
- Eat - share lunch or dinner with one of your families if the opportunity presents itself. I have shared cheeseburgers and ice cream with parents who wanted to show their appreciation for my efforts and I know other virtual teachers who have done the same.
- Frequent their place of employment. One of my former students owned a repair shop, which I used prior to knowing the owner was the father of my student. Once the coincidence was realized, I often stopped by the shop when I was in that area of town just to say hi. To this day, whenever I go in for business, I hear updates on his son, who is now getting ready to be graduated from high school.