Thursday, July 24, 2014

6 Ways to Keep Parents "In the Know"

Being a teacher, it is so important to keep parents in the loop about what is going on in your classroom. Somedays are easier than others, and some conversations with parents go easier than others. We've all been there. One of your students had a really rough day, so you call home expecting the parent to be oh-not-so-responsive. To your surprise, the parent is super helpful and says s/he'll talk to their son/daughter tonight... and it actually happens. You know about it because the kid apologizes to you the next day.

Okay, maybe that's a dream world on most accounts. We all have our off days and we all get busy, and that's completely all right (most of the time). I know there are days when I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and would rather just snuggle up with my fur babies on the couch than go to school. Did I just say that? Yep, I did and I get it. But we still need to work with our parents and not against them.

So how do I deal with keeping my parents "in the know"? Let me tell you!
  • Build rapport. This one seems like a no brainer, I know, but it begins at the complete beginning of the school year. Let your families get to know you a little bit and genuinely get to know them in return. This will make the school year go so much smoother and sets you up for open communication later in the year. You can do this by sending postcards to each of your students before the school year starts, sending a "Welcome" letter home during the first week of school, or just having genuine conversations with parents during Open House night. Don't forget to let them know that you are on their team, too! Let them know you have the same end goal: educating and helping their child.
  • Send home a parent calendar. You can do this weekly, monthly, quarterly, 3-4x a year... it's all up to you. Make sure you put important dates and reminders on the calendar. Print it on colorful paper so it is less likely to be lost in transit from school to home. 
  • Call the parents! And call them for good things more often than calling them about inappropriate behaviors. Most of the time, parents are scared to get a call from you because it usually means their child is in trouble. Anxiety spikes and walls go up, it's just not a good thing UNLESS you call home for good things more often than the "bad". Your parents will be more likely to get onboard your teaching ship if you aren't always the bearer of bad news. No one really likes bad news anyway.
  • Think about sending home weekly or bi-weekly student data cards. Lisa at Growing Firsties has a great blog post where she explains how to use them. She uses them during Parent - Teacher Conferences, but I think these are a great alternative to sending home notes or Progress Monitoring sheets that can be difficult to understand. These keep the parents informed on how their student is or is not performing in your classroom. Keep a copy for yourself, too. Documentation!
  • Create a classroom newsletter. Now before you give up before you start, let me tell you how easy it is and why it is so important! First, your newsletter doesn't have to be anything elaborate. You can use a word document and copy in a calendar. Highlight key dates so parents know what is going on in your classroom. Parents love to know what their kid is learning each subject and it gives the parents something to ask their child about. Why is it important? Well your parents are more likely to be supportive at home (like helping with homework or volunteering in the classroom) if they know what is going on.
  • Get your students involved in keeping communication open and successful with parents. I'm going to take a guess that you're probably thinking about that game you can play at bus duty to keep the kids occupied. You know the one where the teacher whispers something into one child's ear, they whisper to each other down the line and if the sentence doesn't change they win a prize or something? You mean, you've never played that game... on a Friday afternoon... right before winter break?! You're right though, if you tell a child something, the message might get misconstrued, or even forgotten, on the trek home. Here's an idea to combat that: a weekly or bi-weekly exit pass! This can be as simple as a half sheet of paper the students fill out before going home. Have them share something they are excited about, something they learned today, or even something they are proud of. This gets conversations moving at home and your parents stay informed.
  • (a 7th tip just because!) If you are the opposite of me (in the realm of being tech savy when it comes to creating a classroom website), then you should definitely create a classroom website, or blog. I don't mean your teacher blog, I mean a website or blog where you parents can log in and check on daily/weekly assignments, see any projects coming up, leave questions and comments for you (the teacher), and maybe even find some links to educational websites. You want it to be easy to navigate so parents can find what they are looking for easily. Your website does not have to be cutesy or match the theme of your classroom, but it does need to be relevant and kept up-to-date!
How do you keep communication open with your student's parents?

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  1. Email and Remnd 101, but I also teach HS, so the need and tools are a little different.

    Kovescence of the Mind

  2. Excellent post! I love the idea of a quarterly calendar and will try that this year.
    Thanks for the ideas.
    New follower,
    Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

  3. Thanks so much for the shout out!!! You have a bunch of great ideas!!
    Growing Firsties