We always hear how important parent teacher communication is, and it is true. Most parents want to be involved in their child’s education. They want to know what is happening in the classroom, how their child is progressing in the curriculum and with the standards, how their child is getting along with others in the class, and what they can do at home to help them. Teachers not only want, but need parents to be involved and to maintain open communication. But . What needs to be said? When is the right time to reach out to parents?
Contacting parents before school starts or just as school is starting sets the tone for positive communication and establishes the importance of communication. Relationships are built through communication. When the initial communication between teachers and parents is positive, parents tend to be supportive and have a positive outlook. Later during the year, if there is a problem with a student’s behavior or an academic concern, parents who had an initial positive experience are more likely to continue to be supportive. It may seem daunting having dozens of families to reach out to, but this initial contact may be brief. It may be a phone call, an email, or even a postcard in the mail to introduce yourself to the new families. Students also benefit from this early communication as it sends a message the teacher is excited to have them in their class.
Communication Benefits for Parents
There are benefits to parents who have frequent feedback and communication from the classroom teacher. Parents gain a better understanding of the school curriculum and communicate better with their children. When there is a partnership between parents and the school, parents feel they are valuable to their children’s education. In turn, this can set higher expectations for their child.
Communication Benefits for Teachers
Teachers gain more insight about their students when communicating with families. Parents know their child best and can share vital information. The teacher can also gain insight into how the parent approaches education and what kind of support the student is getting at home. This allows the teacher to meet the student’s needs academically, socially, and emotionally in the classroom.
Communication Benefits for Students
Studies show there are many benefits to students when there is communication between parents and teachers. Some of the benefits include increased motivation for learning, regular attendance, improved behavior, and an overall positive attitude towards school and learning.
Communication Action Steps
- Teachers have to find ways to make communication with parents effective. Find out what types of communication families prefer. Do they prefer paper, phone calls, or electronic communication? Can meetings be held via Skype?
- Inform parents of how you want them to communicate: phone, email, or notes. Let them know times of availability for calls or to return emails.
- Make sure to communicate everything, not just the “bad”. A quick phone call to parents when their child did something fantastic, had a gain in learning, or met an IEP goal is a phone call that will be well received by parents.
Teachers can become so overwhelmed with the amount of work to be done day in and day out that it can be challenging to take extra time to form relationships and communicate. Scheduling communication may be helpful and spreading it out may be even more helpful. Instead of trying to reach out to every family in one week, try scheduling five families each week of the month so that each family hears from you once a month. Set your calendar with which families are due to hear from you. Keep in mind how each family prefers to communicate. Remembering the benefits to all involved should help keep communication as a priority.