Most teachers when asked, say that parent-teacher communication is one of their weaknesses. It is not that they try to avoid parents, it’s simply that they aren’t always sure how to keep up with the demands of teaching, and staying in touch with parents often enough. A few years ago, I joined the parent involvement committee at my school and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It was extremely rewarding brainstorming events and ways we can keep ALL parents in the loop. Including those that do not speak English. Here are some ways you can improve parent communication:
When I joined my fifth grade team we decided to departmentalize. It was important we made sure all of our parents were updated on what was happening in each class. Even if you are not doing this, it is very easy to do this with your grade level team! Our weekly newsletter is a shared google doc. We update it each Sunday on what is happening for the week. A quick blurb is all you need to keep parents updated and they certainly appreciate it! We share the google doc link on Class Dojo on Monday Morning!
Use a Behavior Incentive App for Parent-Teacher Communication
Our school has been using Class Dojo but there are several others that I’ve heard of that may suit your needs! Not every district allows this, so obviously double check, but Class Dojo has been a wonderful means of parent-teacher communication. It allows us to post photos, updates, and message parents as often as we need! It also notifies parents when students lose behavior points and informs them as to why they are losing points.
Call Parents When a Child is Doing WELL
This is one thing that has made a HUGE difference in my relationship with parents. Especially with parents who are used to hearing that their child is having difficulty. I always make it a point to message, email, or more importantly call a parent when their child is having a good day. It might take a few extra minutes out of your day but students appreciate the recognition and are more likely to repeat the behavior in the future when they know it will be acknowledged.
Make a Parent Aware When You Are Suspecting an Issue
One thing I have learned that parents do not like, is when you blindside them at report card time. If you have a student that is not doing well either behaviorally or academically, make this known before they receive the report card. You can do this either with progress reports, a conference, a note home etc. Rightfully so, if a parent is completely unaware that their child is not doing well, they will most likely be very unhappy the day after report cards have been sent home!
Hold Parent-Teacher Conferences–In Person!
Our district requires us to have two of these days per year, but I recommend them even if they are not required. Meeting parents face-to-face makes a major difference in building relationships. Even if they visited your classroom during back to school night, it is important to have one-on- one time to discuss their child in a personal way. Sometimes a parent might mention something happening at home that you weren’t aware of, and can make sense as to why your student is behaving a certain way. If I haven’t met a parent by December, I ALWAYS personally reach out to them and find a way to have them come in. Face-to-face conferences are very important to me! As a parent, I know I certainly want to meet the person that is spending most of the day with my child.
Host a FREE School Event
I’m sure many schools do this, but it is a HUGE part of parent involvement. This past year, our parent involvement committee held an international night that was a major success. It is a ton of work and planning, but the end result was a lot of happy parents, teachers, and children. We had each classroom make internationally themed projects. Then, we had international foods such as bread, rice, and soup from around the world. Many local restaurants donated to our event. We had students from the high school sing, as well as outdoor international themed games. The turnout was wonderful!
While these may seem common sense, sometimes we need a reminder to be sure we are doing what we can to involve our parents. It makes for a much better classroom environment all around!