Good parent communication is a must for a successful school year. There are so many ways to communicate today — which ones are the best to use for parent communication?
I recommend using different mediums for different types of conversations.
- Have a routine for mass communication. I like having a weekly overview that goes home with all students. I write it on Friday, post it on my classroom blog and then send it home in student’s folders each Monday. It’s important to have a consistent way of communicating with all of your families. Parents, just like students, need to know what to expect. I send home a paper copy in addition to posting it on my classroom blog. I know it’s not very green, but all families are not going to remember to go to my blog each week.
- The great thing about maintaining a classroom blog is you can also add pages for instructions for classroom projects, rubrics, and even book order deadlines. A lot of questions can be avoided with a central place for parents to go. Even on Sunday night, Jimmy’s parents can access the rubric for the project due tomorrow morning.
- Use email for casual messages only. If I need to schedule volunteer hours, remind a parent about a missing form, or something minor, email is definitely the way to go. It’s quick, efficient, and convenient for both parents and myself. If parents try to discuss something serious over email, I reply that I will be calling them to discuss the matter. Email messages can easily be misinterpreted — or worse: forwarded to others out of context. Do yourself a favor and never discuss anything important over email.
- Reach out to parents at the first sign of a difficulty. My philosophy is to nip things in thebud. If you see that a child seems to be having trouble in reading or math, give the parent a call and set up a meeting. If a child is struggling with behavior issues, stop the parent at dismissal and set up a meeting. It is better to reach out before there is a real problem. By having a quick conference you can give the parent some tips or suggestions for things they can do at home. They in turn, may have some tips for managing certain behaviors in the classroom. One year for example, a mother explained that when her son had too much technology during the day he acted up. I was able to make a quick change to our schedule and never saw the inappropriate behavior again. If you wait, the difficulty may only get worse. In my experience, parents also appreciate hearing about academic problems before the first progress report goes home. My general rule of thumb is that if the child will be receiving a grade lower than a C – you need to schedule a conference.
- Schedule face to face conferences for important conversations. When I have to discuss a serious matter with a parent I prefer to do it face to face. When a child is having difficulty with a subject, or I’m concerned about something going on with a student, I pick up the phone and call home. I let the parent know that I am concerned, and that I would like to have a conference. I do NOT use email to communicate at this point. I think it shows extra concern to take the time to go to the phone, and parents appreciate that. A face to face meeting illustrates the importance of the matter, because both you and the parent are taking time out of your respective schedules. This usually has a positive outcome as well.
- There may be times when situations have already occurred, and you would prefer not to meet alone with a certain family. That is when you ask your administrator to sit in on the conference with you. Your administrator probably already knows about the situation, and if they don’t they probably need to.
- I do not use my personal cell phone to call home. I use the phone in the office. Most parents recognize the school’s number and pick up. If I have to leave a message, and the parent calls back while I am teaching, the office will take a message. In the past I have tried giving out my personal number. Everyone does not go to bed at the same time, and it has resulted in my being awakened for very minor questions or to let me know that a child would not be at school the following day. At this point in my career, I no longer give it out.
Michelle Webb has been teaching for over 15 years in Chicago, IL. During that time she has taught first, second, fifth and sixth grades. Michelle is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher, and has lead professional development sessions for her district. When it comes to creating resources for teachers, Michelle enjoys creating lessons that make learning fun and hands on. Michelle enjoys traveling, yoga, and spending time with her family and friends. To read more of Michelle’s teaching tips, check out her blog. You can also view her teaching resources at her TPT store — Teaching Ideas For Those Who Love Teaching.
- Field Trip Reminders. For simple field trip reminders I generally send a slip home with students in their folders the day before. I can usually fit several reminders on one sheet of paper, so I don’t have to make a lot of copies. The Reminder app is also great for this as well, although it’s rare that 100% of your parents will sign up for it. If you do use the reminder app, remember to schedule the reminders around 5:30 or 6:00 pm. You want to be respectful of family time, and you don’t want to disturb people too late in the evening.