Have a routine for standard teacher and parent communication
I like having a weekly overview that goes home with all students. I write it on Friday, post it on my classroom blog and then send it home in student’s folders each Monday. It’s important to have a consistent way of communicating with all of your families. Parents, just like students, need to know what to expect. I send home a paper copy in addition to posting it on my classroom blog. I know it’s not very green, but all families are not going to remember to go to my blog each week. You can read more about my classroom routines here.
- The great thing about maintaining a classroom blog is you can also add pages for instructions for classroom projects, rubrics, even book order deadlines. A lot of questions can be avoided with a central place for parents to go. Even on Sunday night, Jimmy’s parents can access the rubric for the project due tomorrow morning. I find my blog to be a great constant for maintaining good teacher and parent communication.
- You can also include parents in day to day learning through projects which include the entire family. A good lesson for this is my family tree project. Families enjoy being involved in their children’s learning.
Use email or Class apps for casual messages only
If I need to schedule volunteer hours, remind a parent about a missing form, or something minor – email is definitely the way to go. It’s quick and efficient, and convenient for both parents and myself. If parents try to discuss something serious over email, I reply that I will be calling them to discuss the matter. Email messages can easily be misinterpreted, or worse forwarded to others out of context. Do yourself a favor – never discuss anything important over email.
Reach out to parents at the first sign of a difficulty
My philosophy is to nip things in the
bud. If you see that a child seems to be having trouble in reading or math, give the parent a call and set up a meeting. If a child is struggling with behavior issues, stop the parent at dismissal and set up a meeting. It is better to reach out before there is a real problem. By having a quick conference you can give the parent some tips or suggestions for things they can do at home. They in turn, may have some tips for managing certain behaviors in the classroom. One year for example, a mother explained that when her son had too much technology during the day he acted up. I was able to make a quick change to our schedule and never saw the inappropriate behavior again. If you wait, the difficulty may only get worse. In my experience, parents also appreciate hearing about academic problems before the first progress report goes home. My general rule of thumb, if the child will be receiving a grade lower than a C – you need to schedule a conference.
Schedule face to face conferences for important conversations
Face to face conversations are an important part of good teacher and parent communication. When I have to discuss a serious matter with a parent I prefer to do it face to face. When a child is having difficulty with a subject, or I’m concerned about something going on with a student – I pick up the phone and call home. I let the parent know that I am concerned, and that I would like to have a conference. I do NOT use email to communicate at this point. It shows extra concern to take the time to go to the phone, and parents appreciate that. A face to face meeting illustrates the importance of the matter, because both you and the parent are taking time out of your respective schedules. This usually has a positive outcome as well.
- There may be times when situations have already occurred, and you would prefer not to meet alone with a certain family. That is when you ask your administrator to sit in on the conference with you. Your administrator probably already knows about the situation, and if they don’t they probably need to.
I do not use my personal cell phone to call home.
I use the phone in the office. Most parents recognize the school’s number and pick up. If I have to leave a message, and the parent calls back while I am teaching, the office will take a message. In the past I have tried giving out my personal number. Everyone does not go to bed at the same time, and it has resulted in my being awakened for very minor questions or to let me know that a child would not be at school the following day. At this point in my career, I no longer give it out. If you do choose to use your personal cell phone, make sure you block your phone number from showing up.
Field Trip Reminders
For simple field trip reminders I generally send a slip home with students in their folders the day before. I can usually fit several reminders on one sheet of paper, so I don’t have to make a lot of copies. The Reminder app is also great for this as well, although it’s rare that 100% of your parents will sign up for it. If you do use the reminder app, remember to schedule the reminders around 5:30 or 6:00 pm. You want to be respectful of family time, and you don’t want to disturb people too late in the evening.