As an EFL teacher in Asia, one of the things I did early on was involve the parents of the kids I taught in their child’s learning. I was surprised therefore to see other teachers actively avoiding parents and making little effort to contact them or get them involved in what their child was learning. Without the active involvement of parents, it’s much more difficult for a child to learn EFL. As a teacher, you should do all in your power to get your kids’ parents involved and, honestly, it’s not that difficult to do.
Beginning of Semester Survey – At the beginning of every semester in Thailand, I would send a short survey home, in Thai and in English, to the parents of all the kids I taught EFL to. With just five short questions, it would give me an idea of what the kids already knew and what their parents thought were important things I should know about their child. The questions I asked were these:
a) Does anyone in your family speak English?
b) Do you, as mother and father of (child’s name) help him/her with English homework?
c) Do you, as a family, watch English language TV shows and movies with English soundtrack?
d) How important do you think it is your child learns English well?
d) Does (name of child) have any problems (eg: being shy, not listening in class) that will make it more difficult for him/her to learn?
Immediately, the parents would feel like the teacher was listening to them and concerned with their child’s well-being. It also gave me an idea of if I was dealing with a child from a family that couldn’t speak English (much more difficult to get the child to learn) or one who’s family involved themselves in English-language activities.
Send a Semester Curriculum Home – Every semester, I would send a new curriculum home with my kids, so their parents could see what they were going to learn and why. This would stop parents coming to ask mid-way through the semester why their child wasn’t learning “such and such”, as well as letting them know their child was actually supposed to learn something.
Talk To Parents At Drop-Off and Pick-Up Times – I always made sure I was at the entrance to the school at least twice a week during early morning drop-off times and when the parents came to pick up their child. Even with just a 30 second conversation, it helps parents get to know you and so not feel intimidated if they have concerns or problems and want to talk to you about them later on.
Homework Books – After having problems with students not doing EFL homework, the Thai school I worked at sent a letter home to parents saying, from then on, every night the students would bring home a homework notebook. In it, the teacher for each class would write the homework for that night or a note saying “No homework”. The parents were expected to sign the book every night saying they knew their child had homework and that they had done it or, if not, why not. The child had to show it to the teacher in homeroom the following morning and it had better be signed by the parent.
Just instituting this quick remedy, not only involved the parents in monitoring their children, but also improved our homework rate by almost 90%.
Involve Parents With Any Behavioral Problems – If there are on-going behavioral problems with specific children, always get their parents involved. Explain the problems, ask them to help with solutions and give them updates on any improvement. When you talk to parents of EFL students, also make sure they are told positive things about their children. Particularly in Asia, parents are very sensitive to criticisms about their children but can take the negative if it comes with several positive things too.
Listen to Parents – Parents aren’t the enemy. Listen to what they have to say about their child as well as any ideas about teaching specific things. I’ve ended up with some great suggestions from parents about things to do in class to get the kids more motivated or simply to have fun. Remember parents really just want what’s best for their kids. You don’t have to create a relationship of animosity with them. You can, and should, work as a team.
Teaching children EFL has its own set of challenges. If you can involve the parents of the child, this also lets the child know their parents care about them doing well. Most children, whether they admit it or not, really do like it when their parents are involved. It makes them feel secure and loved. Be nice to your kids’ parents and you’ll see a big improvement in your students’ work and behavior. And the parents will be nice to you too.