Teacher-Parent Communication Strategies to Start the Year Off Right
Students are able to benefit in a variety of ways when schools make a serious effort to cultivate healthy and strong ties with their families. This is not a secret and has been well documented.
Studies have shown that when parents are involved in their children’s education, it can result in positive academic outcomes for those students. These outcomes include higher grades and test scores, improved social skills and time spent on tasks, improved attendance and participation, and a reduction in behavioural issues that occur in the classroom.
Communication between instructors and parents can be difficult, according to teachers. In 2006, more than 1,000 K–12 public school teachers participated in a survey, and 50 percent of those participants rated the level of parental involvement in their children’s education as inadequate. Similarly, 48 percent of those participants reported that the level of parental understanding of the curriculum was also inadequate. And a study that was conducted in 2016 found that some of the most significant obstacles to effective parent-teacher communication were things like difficulty getting to the school site, conflicting work schedules, a lack of translation services, and consistent requests for donations or fundraising that seem to be prioritised over everything else.
Even though effective communication between parents and teachers will always require an equal amount of effort on both sides, educators discussed the most effective strategies—ranging from home visits to in-school parent workshops—for establishing strong bonds with families, beginning on the first day of school and continuing until the last day of the school year.
GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START
According to teachers, a solid foundation for parent-teacher interactions can be laid in the beginning of the school year by cultivating strong relationships and establishing clear channels of communication with one another.
A lecturer has a conversation with two parents about the paperwork.
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It is possible to ensure that families receive crucial information by inquiring about the kind of communication they prefer.
Establishing dependable lines of communication: The ways in which different parents communicate can vary widely. According to Erin Healey, an English instructor in Rhode Island, the best way to find out a family’s preferred method of communication is to simply ask them straight. Create an introductory Google Form at the beginning of the school year, make an initial phone call or send an email, or bring up the subject during back-to-school night. You should also take advantage of this time to educate yourself on the languages that are spoken in your own household.
A personalised touch: Middle and high school teacher Lauren Huddleston discovered that incorporating brief, introductory films in emails was a useful option when in-person parent meetings could not be held due to the pandemic. At the beginning of the school year, Huddleston was able to virtually “share my personality and warmth with parents” thanks to the video format. He was also able to outline the syllabus and explain the standards that were set for the classroom.
Your son or daughter, in one million words or fewer: Cathleen Beachboard, an eighth-grade English teacher, sends out a survey called “Million Words or Less,” in which she asks parents to tell her everything she ought to know about their child, with the sole restriction being a word limit that is intended to be tongue-in-cheek. In the meantime, Huddleston sends out a survey to caregivers with the intention of eliciting their child’s perspective on the topic at hand, as well as their motives and thoughts on the upcoming academic year.
Connecting beyond the confines of the classroom: To kick off the new school year, the preschool instructors at Educare New Orleans travel to the homes of each of their students’ families. During the course of the visit, the parents are questioned regarding their positive qualities as a unit and any aspirations they may have for their child. Educators then assist in outlining what can be done inside their classroom to help the kid accomplish and surpass those goals, as well as what families can do at home to help support their child’s learning. This information is then shared with the families of the students. They will return for a follow-up appointment not too far from the end of the academic year.
ESTABLISH BACK-AND-FORTH COMMUNICATION
According to Beachboard, two-way communication in which parents can listen and receive information as well as speak and be heard ensures a healthy exchange of ideas that welcomes parents as partners in the education of their child. This allows parents to feel more comfortable acting in the role of educator for their child.
Consider communicating on a regular basis information about how pupils are developing academically and how they are interacting with the things they are learning at school. This is especially crucial for families that have recently arrived in the nation because “teacher-home communication may be new and is likely to be saved for only unpleasant news,” as one independent consultant in refugee and immigrant newcomer education, Louise El Yaafouri, says.
Be active on social media: Healey suggests creating a classroom Instagram page or Twitter account to post photos and videos of student work, or emailing out a monthly or quarterly blog celebrating student successes and previewing upcoming curricular content for parents. You can also post photos and videos of student work on your personal Instagram page or Twitter account. She explains that this keeps families informed about what their child will learn next and promotes positive communication with the parents.
Tools that provide real-time information: Applications such as Seesaw and ClassDojo facilitate easier real-time updates and enable children to more easily communicate their learning with their parents directly through the application. “If you’re in the classroom and you’re able to record a video of one of your students saying, ‘Hi Mom!’ I’d really appreciate it. Currently, I’m learning how to add numbers; ten plus five equals fifteen. I’m going to practise tonight when I get home,’ and then the [parent] gets to witness, that’s powerful,” says Paul Bannister, a kindergarten instructor who works in New York City.
Give your parents a little push: The use of straightforward SMS reminders, also known as “nudges,” can assist parents in assisting their children in remaining on course. According to one study conducted by Columbia University, for instance, sending weekly text updates to the parents of students in middle and high school about their children’s grades, absences, and missed assignments led to an 18 percent increase in student attendance and a 39 percent drop in the number of students who failed their classes. According to Beachboard, she makes use of the software “Remind” to keep her family informed of the approaching deadlines for assignments and to strengthen communication in both directions.
BRING THE PARENT INTO THE CLASSROOM
According to research conducted, a parent’s level of involvement in their child’s education has a direct correlation to the degree to which that child succeeds academically and how well they perform overall.
Give parents the opportunity to highlight their abilities, experiences, and skills to get them more engaged in the classroom, suggests education consultant and retired teacher Terri Eichholz. Showing off the qualities of your families is one way to get parents more involved in the classroom. Eichholz developed a Google Form through which families could indicate any abilities that they might be willing to offer with the class. As a result of this, Eichholz was able to locate a parent who was an experienced drone pilot. “[He] zoomed with my children (back before Zoom was a thing! ), and we planned an entire field trip around his knowledge,” she adds. “[He] was a great resource.”
Make it easy for people to enter the programme: at Educare New Orleans, the teachers keep a monthly calendar marked with days on which caregivers are welcome to connect with their kid within the classroom. Provide many entrance points. There is a similar experience that can be provided in the form of a take-home activity for parents who are unable to attend.
Give pupils the opportunity to defend their best work: In Poway, California, at the Design 39 Campus, parents are encouraged to participate in in-school programmes. The first half an hour of class is spent with the students assuming leadership roles, taking command, and describing their efforts to their respective parents. The second half hour is dedicated for parent-teacher communication—including a question-and-answer period—while students attend an elective, gym, or their lunch period.
Making your curriculum transparent: David Cutler, a teacher at the high school level who teaches history and journalism, puts two weeks’ worth of courses and assignments online. This method allows him to set aside time to meet with kids and parents as they prepare for more difficult assignments, while also providing them with openness regarding what and when their children will be studying.
REACHING EVERY PARENT WHERE THEY ARE
According to Angie Shorty-Belisle, school director of Educare New Orleans, historically poor families are frequently assessed before even the beginning of parent-teacher dialogue.
Having the mindset that “OK, we’re at a school where we’re servicing [underserved] families; they’re going to be difficult parents” is the biggest mistake, according to Shorty-Belisle, who explains what she means. “The primary advocate for their child is always the parent…. No new family ever enrols with the intention of being a nuisance or a challenge to the institution.
Close the communication gap: In a recent survey conducted by the New York Immigration Coalition, one third of the parents who were questioned said that the school their child attends does not send information to them in the language that they speak at home. Teachers are able to translate communications and eliminate language barriers by using a variety of technological tools, such as Google Translate, ClassDojo, and the Remind app. These technologies are becoming increasingly useful as schools become more linguistically diverse.
Outside of Educare, a father and his daughter may be seen walking together.
When inviting parents into the classroom, teachers at Educare New Orleans often use events as one of several different methods. Students can continue to learn even when they are away from school thanks to activities they can take home.
Rethink how people perceive their level of participation: Teachers believe that a parent’s work schedule and transportation issues might be just as important a barrier to parental involvement as language issues. “We often think of parent engagement as PTA, coaching the softball team, or chaperoning the middle school dance,” says El Yaafouri, who recommends redefining family participation so that it is more inclusive. “We often think of parent engagement as PTA, coaching the softball team, or chaperoning the middle school dance.” “Sometimes, engagement involves making sure that a child has a quiet area to study at home, or making the necessary calls to get ahold of school materials, or providing knowledge that is unique to one’s life experiences,” according to the author.
A calendar that is more inclusive El Yaafouri suggests that one approach to demonstrate to the families of students from a variety of backgrounds that they play a significant role in the community is to develop an inclusive school calendar at the beginning of each school year. Find out what holidays families celebrate—don’t just assume—and avoid scheduling school events on days that might cause a problem. At the same time, create opportunities throughout the year so that all kids and families can feel like they are represented and respected.