Regardless of your official title at your school, you are first and foremost a communicator. And your communications with parents are particularly crucial for all kinds of reasons – family engagement and retention, student outcomes, and more. Read on for some simple yet effective ideas for communicating effectively with parents all year long.
Communicate with Parents at the Beginning of the Year
Letter of introduction – Before school starts, send a letter to your students’ families introducing yourself and welcoming them to your class. What is your teaching experience, your teaching philosophy, your expectations of students and parents? Share a little about your personal life, too—family and hobbies are a good place to start. Include a picture if possible. Putting a face with a name will help ease those first day jitters. It’s really nice to get real mail these days so this will go over great!
Meet the Teacher/Orientation – Most schools offer some sort of “meet the teacher” before school starts, but it can be helpful to invite parents for their own orientation during the evening. If they’ve already received your letter of introduction, this is the optimal time to go more in depth about the curriculum, schedule, and goals. Make sure you include expectations for communication! How can they best reach you? Should they expect daily, weekly, or monthly written communication from you? How quickly should they expect an email response from you?
Phone Conferences – After the first month or so of school, share a phone conversation with the parents of your students. You have been observing and getting to know their children and this is a good time to share some early observations. It is a great time to listen to the parents; to find out how their goals for their child for the school year. Certainly, these types of conferences can (and should) take place anytime throughout the year, but early in the year is a prime time to start building the parent-teacher relationship.
Communicate with Parents at the Throughout the Year
Newsletters – Newsletters are great to remind parents of upcoming events and include pictures of children at school. Instead of printing and mailing hard copies, just email them or post them to your school website or MemberHub. Parents really LOVE week updates.
Class or School Website – In the 21st century, the first place we head for information is our electronic devices. Having basic information available online is a great way to communicate with parents while also marketing yourself and your school to prospective parents. If you share pictures of students, make sure you have parent permission and refrain from using last names if you have captions.
An online portal like MemberHub provides a single, secure place for all your school communications, from your calendar to newsletters to class photo albums. It also lets you send short announcements (via email or text message) to parents reminding them to turn in picture orders or asking them to serve as room parents. Even online signup forms for parents to get involved with.
Notes or Calls Home – Have you ever sent a dreaded note home from school? Sometimes you have no other choice but to share an issue with parents. When you must do so, make sure you sandwich the not so good news with something positive both before and after. Even better, get into the habit of sending positive notes home. When you only communicate bad news, parents tend to tune out!
Social Media – While you may occasionally find a family without a computer or email address, this is definitely the exception rather than the norm. In this information age, you have to meet parents where they are. Take advantage of the technology and communicate with parents via Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.
Especially when considering social media for communication, I would recommend that you checkout Brad Currie’s book All Hands on Deck: Tools for Connecting Educators, Parents, and Communities. It’s a short an easy read but packed with great examples!
Communicate with Parents at the End of the Year
Conferences – While fall phone conferences help build rapport between parent and teacher, and there is electronic communication throughout the year, face-to-face conferences are still a must. This is a great time to share your observations along with student work and suggestions for home activities to support the child’s growth and development.
Thank You Notes – Thank parents for the opportunity to learn and grow with their children. Even for those challenging students (and sometimes especially for those challenging students!), a note of thanks goes a long way.
Don’t forget about staying in touch over the summer, too!
For more ideas on communicating effectively with parents, click here for your copy of our free eBook, 9 Effective Strategies for Parent Engagement at Your School.