How easy does your school make it for parents to communicate with teachers? It’s a topic that is easily overlooked. School leaders often assume that teachers are making themselves available. However, in my experience, most teachers are left alone when it comes to developing how they communicate with parents.
And even with those teachers that are excellent communicators (man ol’ man do parents love them!) some parents, unfortunately, just kind of tune out when it comes to school communications. Ironically, the most astute and considerate parents are often the ones who keep their distance because they know (or sense) just how busy the teachers are and don’t want to add more to their plates.
But clearly we all want open lines of communications in our schools. We want to make it easy for parents to communicate with teachers, right!?
Here are 5 ideas to break down those communication barriers.
- Stay in touch: If teachers make a point of sending out regular updates – news without an agenda or ulterior motive (e.g., fundraising or volunteer request), parents will feel more comfortable reaching out at their end. There’s nothing wrong with needing help from parents, of course, but it’s nice to set the expectation that spontaneous communication is welcome, too. In other words, the more teachers communicate information, the more open the lines should become for parents.
- Offer office hours: It works for college professors; why not teachers at your school? Teachers can set and publicize certain times for drop-ins (either in person or over the phone), maybe once a week or once a month. This is not a time to discuss serious issues or concerns – individual appointments should be set for those – but simply to be available to parents. Even parents who are unable or unwilling to take advantage of those specific open-door times will appreciate the accessibility they represent. And this would be a great way to build community in your school.
- Provide a obvious way to get in touch: Many schools assume parents know the best way to reach a given teacher when the parents in fact have no clue! Barring an all-in-one communications solution like MemberHub, make sure parents have teachers’ email addresses and phone extensions; a current directory is essential.
- Make it fun: Classroom challenges involving family participation (like, say, trying to break a world record for the largest number of hula-hoopers in one location) are fun for all involved and provide a low-pressure way to break the ice with parents you wouldn’t otherwise reach.
- Think food: It’s amazing how many people come out of the woodwork when food is involved! Ice cream socials, pasta dinners, and summer BBQs are all good ways to get parents and teachers socializing. Host the event on a “donate what you wish” basis, or get your sponsors involved. Again, another huge community building idea too.
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