7.1 Communicating with Families
Teacher communicates with families about students’ progress on a regular basis, respecting cultural norms, and is available as needed to respond to family concerns.
It is necessary for educators to bridge the gap between home and school in order to help student’s succeed. According to Harry K. Wong author of The First Days of School, “The more the school and the family are joined as partners in educating young people, the greater the children’s chances for success” (page 45). There are many ways this can be done and many of them should start even before students walk through the classroom door. Before the beginning of the school year I started making a list of different ways I could communicate with my student’s parents. Based on my experience managing a bi-lingual Kindergarten as well as being a parent I had several ideas of how they might like to communicate with me and how I could strategically communicate with them regarding their child’s learning progress.
I established three ways of communication at the beginning of the year and added a fourth one in the middle of the year:
- Friday Folder
- Monthly classroom email update
- We Chat
I started communication via email even before school started. In the initial email I introduced myself, shared what their student would learn over the year, and reminded parents of how they could support their children during the school year. I also included an attachment of the classroom syllabus (globalclassmanagement.wordpress.com/class-syllabus). I made sure to tell parents that email would be a great way to communicate with me. Since I knew many of my student’s parents personally I also told them they could message or call me if they had any questions, comments or concerns. I also use email and messaging as a way to communicate positive messages about student behavior (Marzano, 2007, page 139). For example, if a student does well in class or has an outstanding piece of work, I email the parents to let them know how well their child did. I try and send out positive emails like this as a way for parents to take pride in their child’s academic accomplishments as well as keep a line of connection between home and school.
In order to pass on graded homework and notes throughout the month I use Friday folders (See figure 1). At the end of the week I gather up each student’s homework, put it in his or her folder, mark the date and make a few comments on how the student performed over the week.
The important step using the Friday folder is making sure students give their parents the Friday folder to look through and sign. On Mondays, when students come back, they must turn in their folder. When they turn it in I can check to see if it has a parent signature and that the homework was taken out. On occasion I have had parents write a note back with a question or comment. If this happens I respond via phone call or email.
Monthly Classroom Email Update
At the end of each month I send out a classroom update (see link:Oct.Parentupdate, April.Parent.Update). This is a great way to update parents on what we did as a class, send pictures and inform them of any upcoming events. Usually, more than half of the parents respond with a ‘thank you’ response acknowledging that they got the update.
I also use We Chat. We Chat is similar to Twitter or Voxer in that it is a social media app people join to connect and communicate with others. This semester I opened up a We Chat group for parents to join. Nine out of the ten parents are in the group. I use we chat to send pictures and also give brief updates. I also use We Chat to connect with individual parents.
For example, one of my students has been in Thailand for a month because of medical issues. I want to continue to support her learning so I not only sent all her schoolwork with her to Thailand, but also “We Chat” pictures of lesson plans, instructional materials and send comments about weekly learning progress (see figure 2). In addition to this, the students like to send their classmate messages and pictures, which is a fun way for the student to feel involved from afar.
A resource and tool that I believe would enhance communication with parents would be a classroom blog. We live in a digital age and I think parents would appreciate being able to log onto a website and follow what their children are doing at school. I would like to create a classroom blog by the beginning of the next school year. This is such a wonderful way to keep up on going communication with parents. I could update the blog daily, weekly and/or monthly. In addition, I could post homework assignments, a student news page where students can contribute and a photo page. I have looked at several wonderful blogs and gathered ideas for what I could use in the future.
Since I have laid such strategic lines of communication for parents, I have not had any conflict in parents voicing their concerns, comments or questions. I really enjoy helping parents feel involved in their student’s learning journey. As a parent I understand the importance of having an open line of communication and as a teacher I see the value in it!
Marzano, R. (2007). The art and science of teaching a comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Wong, H.K. and Wong, R.T. (2009). The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher. Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.