Essential tips and tools to improve the parent-teacher communication loop.
Effective communication between educators and parents is important -- if not crucial -- for helping students learn. But as any teacher will tell you, it can be one of the most challenging parts of the job. Of course, every classroom is unique, and we all face different challenges: Some teachers suffer from inbox fatigue trying to keep up with a constant barrage of parent emails, while others struggle to get parents involved at all. But effective communication remains the goal in every case.
In my teaching, I always found that it paid to be proactive; any time I could streamline the parent-teacher-student communication chain, I spent less time responding to parent phone calls and emails, and students tended to perform better. Sure, it can be a bit more work up front, but when everyone's on board:
- Parents wonder less about what's going on at school. When everyone's in the loop, at-home conversations about schoolwork are more productive. Parents are empowered to work with teachers as allies to help their kids succeed.
- Teachers have more time and energy to focus on in-class learning. Believe it or not, the more you reach out to parents (and students) proactively as a group, the less time you'll spend reacting to questions and concerns over email or by phone. When questions do arise, they'll likely be more informed and constructive.
- Students take more accountability for their own learning. With clear expectations and a supportive team of in-the-know parents and teachers, kids are more likely to perform and do their best work.
The most important thing is simply to keep everyone on the same page -- parents, students, and teachers. It's probably never been simpler, thanks to a bevy of great edtech options available today. Consider how you might utilize one or a number of new tools in combination with the parent-outreach strategies you're already using.
Here are a few ideas and tool recommendations to help kick off a positive parent-teacher dialogue:
1. Reach out with a messenger app like Remind.
Looking for a different way to connect? Check out ClassDojo Messenger, Bloomz, or ParentSquare.
2. Start a dialogue around students' work with a portfolio tool like Seesaw.
For a different portfolio option, try Bulb. Want a built-in gradebook? Check out FreshGrade.
3. Keep parents updated with an online gradebook like ThinkWave.
Looking for another free option? Try LearnBoost. Need a standards-based grading solution? Check out JumpRope.
4. Start a classroom blog for parents with EduBlogs.
Need a more fully featured blogging option? Check out WordPress.
5. Create a class website using Weebly.
6. Feeling social? Try Twitter.
If "brevity is the soul of wit" (thanks, Shakespeare), it's also the zeitgeist of our time, for better and for worse. On its own, Twitter probably isn't the best online tool for two-way parent-teacher communication, but it can still serve as a fast, simple tool for daily class updates. If you go this route, it's probably best to keep things simple with quick, one-way classwork, homework, and announcement posts.
However, the goal in using any social network for parent communication should be to boost involvement, and engage parents and students on the platforms they already use. For this, in recent years some teachers have turned to using a closed Facebook group for their class. Parents and students can join, and everyone's posts to the group page will show up in only the closed group, not on their personal Facebook feeds.
As long as you're considering a social media option, what about using Instagram or Snapchat to connect? It may seem far-fetched, but these platforms could offer powerful new ways to connect with and engage parents and students. More than a few teachers are already going this route and finding success.
No matter what kind of online parent-outreach strategy you use, it should go without saying, of course, to always keep your students' (and parents') privacy and safety in mind. Never post anything to a public forum that contains anyone's personally identifiable information, and be cognizant of what "private" really means on various social platforms. For more information, be sure to check out our post, "Protecting Student Privacy on Social Media." And no matter where you connect, remember to keep your posts brief, helpful, informative, and professional.
Cheat Sheet: Proactive Parent Communication
Download our handy guide to parent communication.