We are all familiar with the weekly or daily folder – if not as teachers than absolutely as students. This folder, always a bright colored red, yellow, or orange, makes the trek to and from school on a regular basis carrying assignments, announcements, newsletters and the like to our parents / guardians.
Because all teachers needed some sort of method for this communication.
Now, communication has become much more technology dependent as the world of email, online apps, texting, and calling is becoming much more common. The adults at home have much more instant access to their students and their students’ teachers if they so choose, and teachers are presented with a much wider variety of options for communication with parents.
Though this absolutely improves the lines of communication coming home from school (no more lost folders or forgotten permission slips in the bottom of the backpack), it also opens a whole new can of worms for the “what works best?” question.
Because what really does work best?
In a world of endless apps and online options, what should teachers be using to communicate with guardians? With instant access, how often should teachers be contacting parents? Should you give out your personal phone number? And how do you protect your own time with these potential apps going off on your phone at all hours? Here are my thoughts.
Class Dojo and Talking Points
Two of the more common programs out there currently are Class Dojo and Talking. Class dojo allows teachers to keep parents in the loop via messaging features and photo and video sharing. Students can also use the dojo for uploading their work into portfolios and for receiving feedback from their teachers. Talking Points is highly praised for its translation capabilities. For classrooms that have students whose home language is a language other than English, teachers can use Talking Points for flawless communication translation.
These programs can cut down on emails and almost eliminate the paper folder being sent home in students’ backpacks! Implementing these programs for the first time with students and parents takes time. Getting everyone on the same page can be a challenge, especially as parents are required to learn new apps and new technology. Be patient, provide lots of guidance at the beginning, and most of all, stay consistent in using the method that works best!
Communicate the Negative and the Positive
So often, the moment a parent / guardian sees a communication from a teacher (whether its via email, a text, or an app), they assume the worst. Most adults have it in their minds that to hear from a teacher means to hear that their student was misbehaving. This is an unfortunate assumption perpetuated by teachers communicating only out of necessity. Your goal should be more than just keeping parents in the loop when things aren’t going well. The power of positive communication cannot be expressed enough. I recommend setting a personal goal for positive communication. Something as simple as choosing one student per day (or two per week) to acknowledge to their parents / guardians for positive behavior or accomplishment can go so far. It serves to create a welcoming and trustworthy classroom environment!
Get Ahead of All the Questions
Regardless of how you have chosen to communicate, getting ahead of the game can save you an abundance of headaches. Even though you may have done away with the weekly folder, the concept of a weekly newsletter or some sort of regular communication to keep parents up to date is imperative. Parents / guardians truly do want to know what is going on at school, and often you are their only window into the daily activities and learnings for their kids. A weekly communication of some sort (newsletter, update, etc.) gives you a space to do just that. Plus, it keeps you from sending multiple emails throughout the week updating parents on the goings-on in the classroom.
Though I know several teachers who are perfectly comfortable using their personal cell phone to communicate with parents / guardians, that may not be you. But don’t worry! There is another way. I know many teachers who utilize google voice for texting and calling their students’ parents or guardians. This is a free service that google provides. When you log in, you are provided with a unique number by which you can communicate with parents directly via texting and calling. This provides you a certain level of privacy while still providing an easy method for communication via texting for parents / guardians.
How do you communicate with the families of your students? Tell us in the comments below!