MemberHub is, in our opinion, a fantastic tool for communicating with parents. But the way you communicate with parents is no less important. Do it too much, or not enough, or in the wrong way, and it’s easy to drive them away for the remainder of their kids’ tenure at your school. Here are 7 tips for parent communications success, whether you’re a teacher, an administrator, or heading up the PTA or PTO:
1. Ask for help. It’s easy to assume that parents who want to help out will make themselves known. But that’s simply not the case. Many parents may be waiting for you to make the first move, or figuring that everything is well-covered unless you tell them differently. So don’t be shy about openly encouraging parent involvement at your school, early and often.
2. Tell them, specifically, what you need. Asking for help is a good first step. Being extremely specific about what you need is an even better second step. Parents may assume that help may only be needed during school hours (when they are unavailable due to work), or that the school has plenty of money allocated for XYZ and doesn’t need more (in a word: Ha! But parents don’t think this way). You are probably always thinking about the many ways it would be helpful for parents to be more involved, but they’re not. Make it easy for them.
3. Watch out for demands. There is no quicker way to shut an eager parent down than to take a curt, demanding, or ungrateful tone. Guilt trips don’t work all that well on kids, and grown-ups don’t respond well to them, either. Even if what you’re asking for seems to you to be no-brainer simple and undemanding (which it may well be), or if a parent has dropped the ball in a highly annoying way, always be polite and gracious.
4. Get into a routine. Whether you send out a monthly newsletter or a weekly whiteboard update on MemberHub, getting into a regular schedule conditions parents to getting used to hearing from you. Also, for big events, set up a communications calendar in advance so that parents are well-informed but not pestered – first notice six months out, for example, with monthly notices thereafter until the final month, when a weekly notice is sent.
5. Pick a point person. Parent involvement is smoother and easier when there is one designated point person they can go to with questions and concerns. It’s also much easier for time-pressed, addled parent brains when the only name they need to remember is, say, Julia’s. This doesn’t mean that Julia needs to handle everything parent-related all by herself, but she is officially the main gatekeeper. You can rotate this position annually if you choose. By the way, here is a great post with room parent resources!
6. Think of fun thank-yous. Whether it’s a “parent volunteer of the month” bulletin board, a handwritten note, or a bottle of good wine, sincere thank-yous go a long way towards encouraging parent involvement at your school.
7. Develop a unique identity. Your school has its own identity, of course, but your parent volunteer organization should, too. Think of a fun name for the group, maybe even with a tagline of some kind. If your school is the Golden Eagles, your parent group could be “the wind beneath their wings” (or something equally fun but less cheesy). You get the idea. The point is that the better identified your volunteer group is, the more readily you’ll attract both interest and willing volunteers.
So what are your tips for effective parent communication?