Going off to school each year can be hard on some parents. They have spent all their time at home; safe and nurtured. Parents can be unsure of what will happen once they are off to school. Keeping them reassured, educated and involved is the best way to have content families who feel supported and happy.
Many times, communication with parents ends up being for things that have a more negative connotation. It is important to communicate when everything is going well too. If you only call, text or email when there is a problem, parents are going to dread seeing your name on their phone or in their inbox. Happy notes are a great way to support students and families. That way, if something that isn’t a positive is conveyed, parents are more receptive.
It’s all about technology in this day and age. Almost no one actually makes a phone call; it’s texting or email or messaging. These can seem impersonal, but when everyone lives very busy lives, sometimes it’s the easiest way to stay in touch. When communicating with the parents of the students in your classroom, there are a plethora of methods to use.
- Best Form of Communication letter: At the beginning of the school year, you may want to send out a notice asking parents which form of communication is best for them. You can give them the choices of phone call, text, email, or note in folder. Also, put a spot where they can tell you the best times to reach them if they choose phone call. Some parents may truly want a phone call while others are fine with a note. Be sure to follow through with their preference.
- Phone Call: This is the most personalized form of communication. It is usually the most difficult because of time constraints, schedules and availability. When there is something serious to convey, this is a must. Make the time to make a phone call and the parents should be appreciative of the time you are taking.
- Text: This can seem impersonal, but it usually the easiest way to stay in touch. Many teachers will use their own phone for this, but if you want to protect your phone number, I have a few other suggestions that follow. If you are just trying to get info for a dismissal question or to confirm an appointment, this is perfect. You can even use a text to schedule a phone call so you know that they will be available.
- Email: Of course, email is on this list. Another easy way to communicate. If you do email a parent, ask them to respond so that you know that they got the email. If they do not respond, because they don’t check their email often, choose another way to communicate with them, especially if it is an important matter. I always ask parents to email me before schools starts so that I have their email in my account.
- ClassTag app: This is a great communication app for teachers. You input your class list and then you can print out welcome/sign up letters. You send the notices home and the parents sign up. You can then send texts through the app (thereby protecting your phone number), set up parent conference times, ask for volunteers/supplies, post pictures from the class and sent out announcements to as many families as you want.
- Remind app: This is another type of texting app. You can send out individual texts or messages to the entire class. There is no sign-up feature for supplies, parent conferences or volunteers. If you want a strictly texting app in order to protect your phone number, this is the app for you.
- TextNow app: This is not an educational app, per se. It is an app that gives you an actual phone number that you can use to call and text. This is strictly for if you want to protect your phone number.
- Bloomz app: Bloomz is similar to ClassTag. It has the same features as ClassTag plus there is a behavior management feature and a student portfolio sharing feature.
- Note in Folder/Backpack: This is frequently an alternative that teachers choose. There are several drawbacks to this choice. Sometimes students realize that the note going home may not be in their best interest so they conveniently misplace it. They can easily be lost, dropped or “misplaced”. If parents choose this method, have them sign the note and send it back so that you know that they received it.
- In person: Setting up a face to face meeting is sometimes required in order to get across the seriousness or concern of an issue. You can always get an administrator or specialist to come to the meeting if you feel that you need a little support.
- Newsletter: Sending home a weekly newsletter about the goings-on in the classroom keeps the parents in the know about the classroom and forms a connection between home and school. Parents like to know what is happening with their child since they are away from home 5-6 hours a day. This is a great way to keep them involved.
- Classroom Website: There are lots of sites where you can set up a free website. I use wordpress.com and it is pretty easy to set up a classroom website. You can put links to different curriculum areas, add videos, connect other social media platforms…the possibilities are endless. It is a good place to put all the online resources that you want your class to have access to. When you want to suggest a resource, you can just tell families to visit the link on your website. If you want to save paper, this is where you can put your weekly newsletters as well.
- Instagram/Facebook/Twitter accounts: You can set up any of these social media platforms specifically for your classroom. Be sure that you get permission from parents for posting pictures and students’ work on your accounts. I send home a permission slip that covers all the social media platforms, my website and ClassTag so that all the bases are covered. Families may opt out of the public accounts, but ClassTag is only for the class so they may be okay with that platform.
You may have other methods for parent communication. You man always stick with something that you are comfortable with. You can try one of these methods that may make the dissemination of information easier…step out of your comfort zone a little. It may take some time to catch on to the new method, but it will make you a lot more accessible to your students’ families.