An Easy Step to Build Trust and Confidence in Your Schools

In today’s competitive and political atmosphere, school leaders often ask us about strategies and tactics to build trust and confidence in our schools — let alone how to enhance the reputation of public education.

We always offer solutions on a number of fronts, but we also ask leaders to think about all the touch points built into the school year — those times when parents, teachers, and principals all interact with one another. Those face-to-face episodes often begin making or breaking the confidence your critical audience of parents has in your schools.

Parent Conferences Give You a Time to Shine

Traditional open houses and parent conferences are now in full swing in many communities. Those of you who are parents or who have a bit of experience meeting with parents know how these events can serve as a great starting point to build confidence in your school and your teachers.

When these events go well, you have established a base-line of trust and solid relationships with your parents. When they don’t go well or if they just receive a “meh” reaction, it could be the first step in eroding parents’ confidence your school is the right choice for their child.

Charters and private schools often prepare their teachers for how to conduct effective parent conferences because they know how crucial conferences are in making a favorable impression and in showing you are competent, caring, communicative, and authentic about their most precious asset — their children.

Let’s Focus on Parent Conferences

My wife and I, both former teachers, have been through 13 years of conferences for each of our sons’ public school careers. Some of their teachers gave the impression they were just there because they had to be — kind of like going to the dentist for a regular checkup. While many teachers were warm, welcoming, and gave the impression they cared about our sons, we still vividly remember those who just punched the clock. They missed a great opportunity to assure us they were going to put in the work to make the school year great for the kids they taught.

Teachers Are Credible and Authentic

What a difference a prepared, welcoming, and caring teacher can make on the public’s confidence in your system and in your school!

Now multiply that trust-building performance by the number of teachers and conferences held each year in your system, and you can see the rise of goodwill building on behalf of your schools.

If you have 1,000 teachers and they complete only 15 conferences this fall, you have made 15,000 positive face-to-face impressions and you are well on your way to developing positive relationships with many of your parents.

This parent-conference approach to building trust should be easy to address. For years, our research and that of others have shown teachers are the most credible spokespersons for your district when they talk about your schools. So when teachers start a positive relationship with parents after a face-to-face meeting, they add an authentic, personal touch when they follow up later in the year with e-portals and other e-devices.

Check Out These Resources

Larry Ascough, an NSPRA consultant and the editor of a Region X (Texas) Newsletter, Communicating for Results, pulled together an excellent compilation of parent conference resources in his resource section. Go to “Parent-Teacher Conferences…or Collaborative Conversations?” Much of the information is drawn from www.edutopia.com.

The tips are quite practical and comprehensive. You can use them for training sessions with your staff or for reminders throughout the year.

One additional NSPRA tip is to send a summary of the most common parent questions and answers to all the parents of that teacher’s students. You will help teachers reach more parents and indicate that their children are lucky to have such a responsive and caring teacher during this school year.

Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director

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