What You Might Be Missing with Your Parent Communication
Whether you call it school-to-home communication or parent communication, it can make or break your year. Parent communication is more than just keeping parents in the loop – it’s about building relationships with them. When they aren’t on the same page as you, it can be very frustrating. Parent communication takes on so many different forms that it can be difficult to stay on top of everything. In this post, I will break down some important goals that I set for myself and touch on some things that helped with parent communication in my classroom.
I created three goals for my parent communication:
- Goal #1: Informed Parents. Informed parents know what’s happening with their child, your classroom, and at the school. They know what their child is learning about and their learning targets. They know how your classroom works including your rules, procedures, expectations, grading policy, schedule, etc. They know about upcoming events, what’s required of students and parents in preparing for those events, and what help or assistance is needed. Last, they know about what’s happening in the school community at large including schedule changes, holidays, fundraisers, and other school-wide events.
- Goal #2: Invested Parents. Invested parents are more than just interested in their child’s education, they are willing to devote time and energy to see that their child succeeds. Armed with the information about what their child is doing in school and how they can help, an invested parent takes an active role in their child’s education by holding their child accountable and providing help and support at home.
- Goal #3: Involved Parents. Involved parents take an active role in assisting the classroom and/or school community. Since they are involved in the classroom and school community, they are willing to help and assist the classroom and school community when able. Involved parents also set a great example for students and model how to be a responsible adult and good citizen to students.
Parents who are uninformed about your classroom management style (including all your rules, procedures, and disciplinary strategies) and curriculum are more likely to blame you when their child struggles or expresses some dissatisfaction with discipline, assignments, grades, etc. They’ll be less likely to assist and support their child at home if they don’t know what their child is learning about. You want to help parents see your plan for their child at the outset so that they can become your ally and help guide their child toward shared goals.
It is important to remember that no matter how hard you might try, some parents may not be interested in being informed, invested, or involved. That’s okay. You may not realize this, but there is an entire group of parents who want to be informed, invested, and involved, they just don’t know how. Additionally, there is another group of parents who are intimidated by the school setting. They may have had a negative experience when they were in school, so now they feel intimidated or unsure about taking an active role in their child’s education. The tips in this blog post are designed to help you reach these parents and all parents.
How to Accomplish These Goals:
Besides regular emails and phone calls with parents to address questions and concerns (unplanned parent communication), my planned parent communication took two forms: typically through my Meet the Teacher Night or Open House and my weekly or monthly newsletter and calendar. You can read more about my Meet the Teacher night here.
In addition to that, here are some good things to remember that might be missing from your parent communication:
1. Remember to put it in writing. Before the start of the year, write out all your rules, procedures, expectations, grading policy, schedule, disciplinary strategies, etc. so that you can hand it out to parents. I recommend you distribute this information at your Meet the Teacher night or Open House. That way, parents have time to read over the information and ask any necessary questions before the year begins.
All of the resources in this post can be found in my Meet the Teacher resource found HERE. This resource has been bundled with my editable Newsletters and Calendars HERE.
2. Remember to provide your contact information. Include your contact information in all forms of parent communication (email, voicemails, newsletters, notes, etc.) so parents can easily reach you. I use a Meet the Teacher Letter, fridge magnets, and had a contact me section in all my newsletters so my parents always felt that they were able to reach out to me. You can find the newsletter below HERE.
3. Remember to be consistent with your weekly or monthly newsletters. Parents can’t be informed, invested, or involved if they’re in the dark. The best thing I ever did was start sending home (or uploading on my website) a weekly newsletter with a message to parents, a few reminders, a list of upcoming events, a breakdown of what their child is learning, and some suggestions for how they can help reinforce learning at home.
Additionally, parents should receive a monthly calendar that includes important events in the classroom and school. This helps everything run smoothly. I found that I had more offers for volunteers and parents who knew exactly what we were doing each week or month. I would print these calendars on the back of my weekly newsletter for parents.
I have done the work for you in my Editable Newsletter and Calendars resource found HERE. In this resource, you will find completed newsletters that are themed for each month (August I write about back to school, around the holidays, I write about classroom parties, etc.). Just modify the wording a bit to fit your needs, and you are all set. I also provide you with editable monthly calendars with important dates and holidays already included.
4. Remember to explain how you will communicate important class or school news with them. Whether it’s a note home in home-to-school folders, an app, or a class website, make it very clear at your Meet the Teacher night, in a welcome letter, and/or in your first few newsletters how you will communicate and when you will do it. Have a communication plan and follow through. If you have a class website like I did, gather parent emails at your Meet the Teacher night or Open House. You can read more about that HERE.
I set this sheet out in the hallway for parents to write their email on before they even entered my room that night. Each time you post a newsletter or calendar, send out an email notification to parents with a link to the update You may even find it useful to work with the IT Department at your school to add a read receipt to your emails so that you can see if parents are opening the message and seeing the updates.
5. Remember to explain how you’ll address parents’ questions and concerns. Let parents know that you value their questions and concerns, and explain that in order to give them your undivided attention, you’ve set aside specific times to talk. Set aside time each week to accept and return (non-emergency) phone calls and emails, and actually be available during those times. Post these times outside your class and make them known in a welcome letter and in your regular newsletter. Your instruction time is too valuable. Having time set aside will help avoid random interruptions to your day.
6. Remember to let parents know what their child is learning as often as possible, and offer ways for parents to help. Research shows that students make the largest gains when parents are involved and invested in their child’s education. Parents who know what their child is working on and how they can help will feel empowered to support students at home. When I started sharing what we were learning each week in our weekly newsletter, I saw amazing changes in both parents and students. I even offer tips on conversations that parents can have with their students related to what they are working on.
7. Remember to ask parents about their child early and often. Let them know that their child’s education is a team effort and you are asking for their assistance in that regard. I make this clear with parents at my Meet the Teacher night and encourage them to complete a questionnaire about their child. There is no one that knows your students more than their parents. A questionnaire will provide you with a lot of great information and show parents that you care and appreciate their input. You can make your own to hand out to parents. If you’ve already purchased my Meet the Teacher resource found HERE, this step is done for you.
8. Remember to document everything. Make sure you keep some type of log of every parent communication (I used a 3-ring binder with loose-leaf paper. You can even organize the binder into sections for each student). It should include a copy of every newsletter you sent home, and every exchange you have with a parent. Make sure you write the date on every piece of information, who you spoke with, and what was discussed. If you emailed with a parent, print the email and keep it in your binder. You never know why or when you will need this.
Many of the tools I’ve used to improve my parent communication are included in my Editable Newsletter and Calendar resource and my Meet the Teacher or Open House resource. See below to check out these resources and the bundle.
Thank you! I hope to see more updates from you.