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T.O.Y. Stories Blog: A Teacher’s Best Practice for Parent Engagement is Positive Communication

T.O.Y. Stories
Marlo Coppage


An Education Blog Sharing Thoughts, Ideas and Strategies from Maryland’s Teachers of the Year.

Welcome to MSDE’s T.O.Y. Stories Blog.  The blog capitalizes on the expertise of award-winning Teachers of the Year in Maryland who share educational ideas to promote the continued discussion of a wide range of topics. Issues to be discussed over this year may include parent engagement ideas, instructional strategies for increased achievement, educational innovation and reform – the Maryland college and Career-Ready Standards, new online PARCC state assessments, classroom management techniques and strategies and suggested solutions to various perceived education problems. 

Articles do not endorse any educational product, service, curriculum or pedagogy. 

A Teacher’s Best Practice for Parent Engagement is Positive Communication

 By Marlo Coppage

I always make sure that my first communication with parents is positive.

Most schools are requesting the emails of parents on the student’s emergency data forms, and I have a section on my syllabus also where I request the parents’ or guardians’ email addresses.  I make groups in my email for each class.

By the end of the first week of school, I send an email introducing myself, explaining what the students need to be successful in my class, and my goals for the school year. I invite them to contact me anytime with any questions or concerns.  I receive replies to that initial email throughout the entire school year.

If I do have to contact a parent for a negative reason, I make sure my first statement to them is positive.

Then I explain the behavior that I am seeing, and ask if they are seeing the same thing at home, or if the student has mentioned having any problems in my class.  I always talk about why it’s important for the child to change the behavior and how much it will help them.  I usually end with asking if they have any suggestions or ideas to help improve their child’s behavior.

I try to never make it seem like an attack on their child or a deficiency in their parenting, so we can work together to help the child be successful.

This school year I used back-to-school night each semester to educate the parents about the changes with the Common Core (aka the Maryland College and Career-Ready Standards).

I explained that even though it may seem that their children are struggling unnecessarily, the idea is to create better problem solvers and more creative thinkers.

I also tell them that if the homework is causing too much heartache at home, or if their child is spending more than a half an hour on it and is frustrated, all they have to do send me an email and their child will not be penalized.

This lets the parents know that I understand the changes are hard at home as well, but I don’t want their kids to be punished for it.  I also suggest a couple of online resources such as Khan Academy and recommend that they help their child stay organized, so they have an easier time with the new format of content.


Marlo Coppage is a math teacher at Queen Anne’s County High School. She is the 2013-2014 Queen Anne’s County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.