Over the last few years, technology has given us the ability and tools to communicate with each other more easily and in a multitude of different ways. This has allowed schools to go from having a paper newsletter that gets delivered once a week via the bottom of a school bag (more or less crumpled), to regular emails and text messages.
However this shift in communication is also driving increased demand from parents who want to find out more about, not only what is happening at the school, but also how their child is doing in the classroom. While this may take a bit more precious time of the teachers and staff, providing parents with this information can create a strong and effective partnership between all parties.
To help make this process easier and more efficient, the school needs to create a strategy to help build a stronger relationship between parents and teachers to leverage the combined power of the two which will lead to greater and more positive outcomes for students.
Here are some tips that your school can utilise to improve communications with parents.
Set your goals
Create a conversation to let everyone know what the goals will be for the classroom. Do you want better student attendance? Do you want active and evident parent engagement with homework or class projects their child is involved in? Whatever your goals are, keep them in mind when designing your plan.
Demand high expectations
Research has shown that parental expectations are one of the strongest predictors of student achievement. Your parent engagement plan should set clear, consistent, achievable and high expectations for student performance in class and with the school.
Bringing parents into this will help shift some of the burden and will enable them to reinforce your expectations in the home.
Find out the best way to communicate
It’s a good idea to ask parents what communication methods are best for them – ideally at the start of the year but also at regular intervals during the year. Do not assume that parents are all the same. Find out the best method that works for them.
While email may be great for some parents and is a very cost effective way of communicating, you can also try texting, or other online options like Twitter and Facebook. Some traditional options, like notes and calls home, can be time intensive, but still work for some parents.
Notice and measure what’s happening
Pay attention to your results. Are your communications getting parents engaged? Are unexplained absences reducing? Are parent/teacher attendance rates increasing? Are there fewer complaints about unknown cancelled sports practices or school closures? Are permission slips being returned? Do students arrive prepared for class? What methods are providing the most response from parents and students? You can adapt your plan to make the best use of your time. If most parents respond best to email, then you can save yourself some calls home, and so on.
Don’t let communications and parent engagement be just a checklist; turn it into a strategy for achieving your larger school and classroom goals. Open up the lines of communications with parents, and set them up to be more involved with their children and get them to talk with their kids each day about their school day. Leverage the power of the home as well as the school to get the most out of your students.
To learn more about parent engagement, download our white paper ‘Upholding a child’s education: the three-legged stool effect’.