Emailing Parents

For the last three years, my class blog has been a great way to communicate with parents. The blog acts as a window into our class and the parents can stay up to date with our activities and achievements.

This year, I’ve introduced a parent email newsletter which has been well received.

At the start of the year I asked all of the parents for their email address. Out of 21 students, I currently one have one parent without email.

I entered these addresses into my Outlook contacts and created an email distribution list.

Every fortnight I write an e-newsletter to parents. It includes information on our current learning focusses, upcoming events, reminders etc.

*Tip* If you are emailing a group of parents, put the distribution list or email addresses in the BCC field. This means recipients will not be able to see the other email addresses on the list and the privacy of your parents is protected.

This year I also use email frequently to contact parents individually.

I have had a couple of students who would have had a communication book in the past but the parents and I find email an easier solution.

Parents also email me about absences, medication and general queries.

Contacting parents via email seems like such a simple concept but one that, in my school circle, is not widely used.

It is important to note that email contact does not replace all face to face interaction, but with most parents working and busy, it allows for frequent, ongoing communication.

The benefits I’ve found are the instant access, reliability (no lost notes), privacy (personal notes not read by students) and ease of use. It’s sad to say that I can type up a note in about half the time it takes me to handwrite it!

To ensure the parents receive the email, I have made business card sized notes that say “I sent you an email today“.  I only hand these out when it is essential that the email is read. Most of the time it is not necessary but I have found it is handy to have some sitting on my desk.

Do you use email to communicate with parents?

What do you think about the idea?

Emailing Parents
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19 thoughts on “Emailing Parents

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  • November 5, 2010 at 12:58 pm
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    Kathleen,
    I started sending weekly emails to my Gr. 7/8 students’ parents this year. I include all relevant info. including due dates, tests, special events etc. Knowing that 12-14 yr.-olds rarely deliver newsletters, this form of communication is greatly appreciated by the parents, a message I heard loud and clear tonight during the “parent interviews”.
    My teenage boys’ teachers also send periodic emails.
    So, no matter what the students’ ages, parents want to be informed in a timely manner. As you stated, emails are an effective way to do this.

    Reply
    • November 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm
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      Hi Heather,

      Great point about the unreliability of 12-14 year olds. My seven and eight year olds can be a little forgetful too but probably not quite as much!

      I also heard the message “loud and clear” during interview that this form of communication is something parents really appreciate. As a parent, you can see that from the other side which is great!

      I hope we can encourage other teachers who haven’t looked at email as an option to give it a try! 🙂

      Reply
  • November 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm
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    Hi Kathleen,
    We also send a weekly parent email with all the information we’d like parents to know. We have a much larger proportion of families who don’t have email or choose not to be on the mailing list. It’s over one quarter. There are a couple of parents who communicate with me via email, but with our school community it doesn’t seem to be a preferred way of communicating. I like your idea of the little cards to send home!
    Michelle

    Reply
    • November 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm
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      Hi Michelle,

      That’s a shame you have such a large proportion who aren’t on your mailing list. I can only imagine that in time this number will decrease. Hopefully it will become a preferred way of communicating in the future. Open, frequent, instant parent communication can only help improve student outcomes.

      Feel free to use the card idea! 🙂

      Reply
  • November 5, 2010 at 9:29 pm
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    Hello Kathleen,
    I use email for requesting supplies that are needed right away, to send reminders about something their child needs, and to bring attention to something else timely. I have asked the parents not to email me anything of real or timely importance, especially absences. If they want to tell me about an absence in a few days that’s fine but I don’t check my email for hours on end during the day and telling me you are picking up Johnny at 1:30 will never be read if it arrives after the start of school. Also a very important piece is that sometimes I am absent and the sub will not have access to my email to read it at all. Sometimes the server is down. So if it’s of a timely nature – no way. I haven’t sent parents reminders of the newsletter. The link is posted on Friday on our blog with the option of subscription. I think automatically sending it to them would be pushy, especially for those who were slow in giving me their email addy in the first place. I still have 2 families who haven’t shared it with me, one has no home computer but I can reach Dad through his work email. Mom says he never tells her about it.
    Thanks for the thought provoking post. Love seeing you in my Reader!

    Reply
    • November 6, 2010 at 7:48 am
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      Thanks for sharing your experience of email. For me, I leave Outlook open all day so when I walk past my desk during lesson transition times I can see if there is anything that I need to look at (of course I leave anything that looks non urgent for later). In that way, the parents know that I will get their email within an hour or two of when they send it.

      I know a lot of teachers don’t do this so, like you said, it’s important to let the parents know what they should use email for.

      Email is a great solution and getting it working in a way that’s right for you is something for teachers to think about.

      Thanks for your insights.

      Reply
  • November 6, 2010 at 5:27 pm
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    Hi Kathleen
    as a parent (and teacher) I have proactively started using email as a way to communicate with me children’s teachers at times, especially if it was a communication that I wanted to be just between the 2 of us and not via my child. When I am working and cannot be there to see the teacher in person it allows me to update the teacher on possible changes at home that may impact in the classroom.
    As a replacement for the manual “communication books” for junior primary it seems bleeding obvious to say the least. Lets hope the idea catches on because it is about time!!! In fact I am sure there are parents out there everywhere who are quietly wondering why this type of communication wasn’t introduced a standard at least 5 years ago.
    Cheers AJ

    Reply
    • November 6, 2010 at 8:22 pm
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      @ Adrienne,

      Thanks so much for your thoughts on this. It is really interesting to hear a parent’s perspective too.

      I can’t agree more about the communication book. It is “bleeding obvious!” The first thing my students used to do when I gave them their communication book to put in their bag was open it to see what I’d written! While I do like to have the students involved in discussions about their behaviour/academic goals etc, sometimes there is the need for private communication with parents and the old-school book doesn’t allow for this.

      I really think this sort of communication does need to become a standard. With so many things IT based, it is very “optional” and in the year 2010 I don’t know if this is good enough.

      Great to hear from you.

      Reply
  • November 8, 2010 at 1:42 am
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    Hi Kathleen. Thanks as always for your thought provoking question. As a parent and a teacher I am a big fan of email communication. As a parent I like the way that you can read the message and retain it whenever it suits me. As a teacher I like that I can send an individual message or group one just as easily.
    Mostly I enjoy how an email can “nip a problem in the bud” so to speak. The parents and I can put our heads together and redirect a behavior before it becomes a big issue and it avoids the negative, stressful vibe associated with “calling a parent in for a formal meeting with the teacher.”

    Reply
  • November 8, 2010 at 2:02 am
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    I forgot to say that it is easy to rush off an email, or reply in haste. No form of communication can be effective if it breaks down. And, unlike an old car, breakdowns are not easily fixed!
    My advice is two-fold. Firstly, always try to repsond to people emails within 24 hours, even if it’s just to say that you’ll be in touch again soon.
    Secondly, compose longer (or potentially more controversial) messages in Word first. Send an interim message which goes something along the lines of “Thank you for your message. I appreciate you bringing this to my attention. I will endeavor to address your points within 24 hours.”
    Then go off and do something completely different. If you want to, you could send your Word document to a trusted colleague and ask them if it sounds reasonable. Once you are in a better place and are sure that the message is suitable copy and paste your email remembering to BCC it to yourself so that you still have a record of it.

    Hopefully this precaution won’t be necessary too often but believe me it really pays to avoid misunderstandings.

    Reply
    • November 8, 2010 at 7:05 am
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      @ Susan,

      Fantastic points! I really agree about “nipping a problem in the bud”. It’s such a great form of instant and ongoing communication and I agree about the formal meetings. Always good when they’re not necessary.

      Also your point about thinking what you’re going to write is so true. I wish I had put that in my original post as it is something I am always thinking about. You have to be very careful what you put in writing! Getting the opinion of a colleague is something I have done before too.

      So true about getting back to someone within 24 hours – even if it is to say you will reply later. I am constantly frustrated by people in all industries who do not reply to emails! It seems that email is such an optional form of communication for some people. I hope things will change.

      Thanks for adding such fantastic insights, Susan.

      Reply
  • November 9, 2010 at 8:19 am
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    I teach 5th grade and we send regular emails. We also use school management software to email out report cards (the parents can even sign up for automatic emails when their child fails to turn in an assignment). The high majority of my student’s parent’s have email addresses. As others have commented, I tell my parents I will respond within 24 hours to an email (and usually it’s within a couple hours).

    I still meet with parents when needed or requested and occasionally a parent will ask for a phone call. But I have found email to be far-and-away the most efficient and productive means of basic communication.

    As more parents have a smartphone on their hip and instant access to their email I think more teachers should be able to embrace this great 20th century tool.

    Reply
    • November 9, 2010 at 9:03 am
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      @ Jeff, I would love to see online reporting. Surely soon that will become mainstream.

      You’re right about the smartphones. Some of my parents have commented that they love emails because they access it straight away on their smartphone. I couldn’t agree more about more teachers needing to embrace this technology!

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      Reply
  • November 9, 2010 at 9:41 pm
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    Hi Kathleen,
    Just like you this year I have used email to communicate with my parents. I also have all parents except one on my email list and that is purely due to the fact that they don’t have internet access…..????
    I have found it fantastic for class newsletters, I too send them out regularly. It is also great for those reminders when you are not at school. E.g. I needed to remind my children to bring their library bags for the local library over a long weekend…..I did it immediately and I had 99% of children present with their library bags! You can’t get much better than that!
    The parents love it too! They love the fact that they actually get the message….and the correct one too! Prep children sometimes muddle the message. I love the idea of BCC yourself so that you have a record of the message.
    Thanks Kathleen.
    By the way I love your blog.
    Mel

    Reply
    • November 10, 2010 at 6:40 am
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      @ Mel,

      You’re right about the reminders when we are not at school. I find an email a couple of days before going back to school after holidays is great to remind parents what the students need to bring etc.

      The parents do love it. I’m actually thinking of doing a survey with my parents to gather their thoughts on this initiative (and other things I’ve been doing). I’ll look forward to sharing the results!

      Thanks for your support, Mel!

      Reply
  • November 11, 2010 at 11:42 am
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    I’ve found email invaluable this year in helping me correspond quickly with a parent of a student diagnosed with Aspergers. We started with a communication book, but found emailing far more efficient. The parent has been able to give me a heads up about any events at home that might affect the student’s behaviour the next day so I can be prepared, or I can let her know about events at school that might effect behaviour at home that evening. We have been able to brainstorm ideas together and tackles issues quickly, as well as share resources. It has been wonderful. I hadn’t considered extending this form of communication with other parents though. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
    Cheers, Lucy.

    Reply
    • November 11, 2010 at 12:10 pm
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      @ Lucy, that is a terrific example of how powerful and effective email can be. Thanks so much for taking the time to share.

      I’m sure if you started an e-newsletter or something next year, your parents would really enjoy it. Good luck! 🙂

      Reply
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