The key to a happy marriage is communication, and in many ways, it’s no different in a parent teacher relationship. Clear parent communication is one of the big keys to a happy school year. Any teacher who has ever had a run-in with a disgruntled parent can vouch for that.
And just like there are so many digital communication platforms in one’s personal life (text, email, phone calls, etc.) it’s similar in the classroom. There is no shortage of messaging apps and other paperless ways to keep the lines of communication open with families.
While I appreciate the convenience of email, and apps like Remind or ClassDojo, there’s something to be said about still adding a “personal touch.” Call me old school, but using traditional forms of communication in addition to digital ones can really make a lasting impression. When everyone is so accustomed to email and text messages, it feels refreshing to receive special attention in a different form. Here are a few parent communication methods that can help build personal connections with students’ families.
Getting something in the mail that is not a bill or coupon is always such a pleasant surprise! People don’t usually expect snail mail, because it takes more effort and thoughtfulness than sending an email.
And imagine the even greater surprise when a parent realizes that in their pile of junk mail, there is a handwritten note from their child’s teacher. What parent doesn’t love to hear someone brag about their kid?
It does take more time to write out a note, put a stamp on it, and get it to the mailbox, than it does to write an email. But it is time well spent. The simple act will not go unnoticed by parents, and can really help strengthen your relationship with that family in a big way.
A Good Old-Fashioned Phone Call
Whenever a parent receives a call out of the blue from a teacher, the first natural feeling is a tiny sense of panic. They automatically think, Did something happen? Is my kid in trouble? You have the power to turn those fears right around and absolutely make their day. Parents are so happy (and relieved) when they find out it’s a positive call.
Of course, finding the time for this is SO much easier said than done! As a teacher, you have about a million and one things going on in any one given day. Calling home often loses priority in favor of “must do” responsibilities.
What I personally found most helpful was to make a realistic goal for myself, and stick to it. Every Thursday after school (it wasn’t going to happen on Friday, haha!) I would choose a student and take just a few minutes to call their family. It sometimes meant that my desk didn’t get organized at the end of the day, but I wanted to prioritize better.
I kept the calls very short and sweet. I would just share how much I loved having their child in my class. I also gave examples of the great work they were doing or the good choices they were making. I had a check-off list to keep track of families that I’d already called. This helped me reach as many different homes over the course of the year as possible.
These calls would take just a few minutes, but the payoff lasted for much longer than that. I cannot even express how much these simple phone calls strengthened my relationships with families. It showed in the extra support from those parents in the months that followed. It also resulted in extra positive behavior from the student (who felt so proud to get that phone call home)!
Parent Communication Folders
In addition to written or verbal feedback, families want to see their child’s progress and what they’ve been working on at school. Since parent conferences are typically only once or twice a year, it’s important to have a consistent system for sharing student work with parents.
This is easily made possible with apps like SeeSaw or Flipgrid. But again, it doesn’t hurt to take an old school approach in addition to sharing work digitally. Not only will it help out any grown-ups at home who are less tech-savvy, but it will cut down all those paper piles of student work. After classwork and assessments have been checked or graded, no teacher wants to keep that extra clutter around. Send it all home!
Communication folders make it super easy to send student work home on a regular basis.
Folders like this are also perfect for sending home any schoolwide fliers or important class information. If you like the postcard idea I shared earlier but want to forego the actual mailing part, you could even send home postcards or other notes in a folder like this.
I label the inside flaps of the folder. One side says, “Return to School” and the other says, “Leave at Home.” This way, parents know what to keep and what to send back. For example, any paper that might need to be signed.
You could choose the frequency of how often to send communication folders home, most likely daily or weekly. My own preference has always been weekly. It provides more time for student work to be filed and put into the folders.
Any and all work that is ready to be sent home is put into a basket. The papers are then filed by student number into a filing box. These number labels are a freebie from Amy Groesbeck’s store on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Thursday was the designated day I chose to send folders home each week. Every Thursday, all of the filed student work and school wide fliers were put into the folders. Families would take all the papers out when their child’s folder came home. Students returned the empty folders on Friday morning (with any possible paperwork on the Return to School side).
Parents can also utilize the folder to communicate with the teacher. If they need to jot you a quick note, they can stick it in the folder. I send home a letter that explains the folders.
Here’s one where old school communication and technology happily meet. A weekly newsletter is not a new concept, but has stood the test of time with many teachers because it’s an effective way to communicate information to parents.
You could certainly print a newsletter to send home every week or month, but this is an area where I do personally prefer digital correspondence. The main purpose here is just to provide clear information and announcements on a consistent, reliable basis. In this case, it saves a lot of time and paper to send a newsletter via email or a messaging app.
If you don’t already have something you use, I highly recommend this user-friendly newsletter template from Learning in Wonderland. It’s editable to meet your needs and it’s in both English and Spanish.
If you wanted to add a “warm and fuzzy” component to your newsletters, you might choose to spotlight a specific student in each one (and give a quick positive shoutout about them).
What are some of your favorite ways to share feedback, student progress, and important information with parents? Are you team digital or team old school (or a combination of both, like me)? I’d love to know, so feel free to “communicate” your ideas by leaving a comment below!