Have you set up effective parent communication?
I am incredibly excited to start another year of teaching next week! In the midst of preparing my seating charts and first day activities, I have also begun to lay the foundation for consistent parent communication throughout my entire school year.
This is one of the most important steps to take in the first few days of school. No matter what grade level or subject you teach, getting the parents on board with your classroom content and information from the beginning will ensure that you have the support you need to guide all of your students to a successful year of school.You don’t really understand students or parents until you leave your comfort zone and spend time in their comfort zone. Click To Tweet
Parents are the supports you need at home to encourage and question your students, but they can only do so if they fully understand your classroom expectations. It is your job to educate them, and maintain regular and positive communication throughout the year.
These three key ideas will hopefully inspire you to also start off the year on the right foot!
Meet Students and Parents Where They Are
One of the most valuable experiences I engaged in during my first year of teaching was performing Home Visits. Partnered with my co-homeroom teacher, we visited the houses of 24 students in the first month of school. Each meeting was about 15-30 minutes, and allowed us to learn so much more about the student and their family than any ‘First Day Survey’ could have shown us. In the words of Atticus Finch, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” These Home Visits allowed us to do just that![scroll down to keep reading
Home Visits aren’t possible in every school district, but something that all teachers can practice is approaching every student and every parent with a clean slate. You don’t really understand students or parents until you leave your comfort zone (your classroom) and spend time in their comfort zone (whether that be their home, the soccer field, a family restaurant, etc); that is where their skills that might not be seen everyday in your classroom can really shine. Try to find opportunities in the first few weeks of school to play on your student’s court, and you will be amazed at how those connections will help you support your students for the rest of the year.
There are three functions on Google that are invaluable for parent communication; Google Forms, Google Calendar, and Google Translate.
Google Forms are incredibly useful to gather information easily in the beginning of the school year. In my Parent Letter, I ask them to complete a form that collects their email, the class their student is in, and any questions they have for me or concerns they have for their student. It is quickly turned into a Google Sheet that can be sorted based on the class or by name, and the emails can be easily copy-and-pasted into the BCC field for my monthly newsletter.
Google Calendar is also a great way to share important dates and deadlines with students and their parents. I inserted a link to my Google Calendar on the parent survey mentioned above that parents and students can save to their personal calendars. I teach high school students who, for some reason, don’t use agendas any more, so it is also an excellent tool to hold students accountable for their work.
Finally, Google Translate is a powerful tool that allows for quick communication across any language barriers. Emails, Remind messages, and texts, can be quick ways to update a parent on their student’s progress, and having that conversation in a comfortable language for both of you directly translates to a successful relationship.
So often, parents only hear from a school in a negative light; when their student is in trouble, or has misbehaved in class. This past year, one of my goals was to send home at least one piece of positive communication to all 125 parents of my freshmen, and I can’t tell you what a difference that made!
One parent responded to tell me she had never seen the strengths in her student that I was seeing in my classroom, and was able to understand her child in a whole new way. Another said he had never gotten a message from the school about his child, and it made him proud to know that his son was responding to challenges in my classroom in such a mature manner. This in turn has a profound impact on the students. If they feel that their parents support them and are proud of the work they are doing, they will be excited to rise to your next challenge and will most likely succeed!
I hope these ideas have inspired you to take your parent communication to the next level. Please feel free to reach out with any comments or questions!
About Erin Hall
Erin Hall is an English Teacher at Chariho Regional High School and the Founder & CEO of the Young Educators Society of Rhode Island. YESRI is an organization where educational professionals with less than 10 years of experience can connect, collaborate, and learn from each other.
Erin’s Classroom Website: www.mshallclassroom.com.
For more on YESRI, visit: www.yesri.org
Or visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/yesriorg.