When I began teaching in 2004, my main forms of parent communication were:
- the occasional class (paper) newsletter
- chatting to parents at the classroom door
- signs on the classroom window with reminders
- reports and parent teacher interviews
- communication books for some students
- phone calls or notes home if issues arose
While some things have stayed the same, many things have changed. I’ve noticed a decrease in the number of parents who visit the classroom every day. Moving from the junior school to an older grade also means parents are around less.
Since I started teaching, advances in technology and online communication have changed the way people interact and access information. It has been important to keep up with this, not only with what I’m doing with my students, but with how I’m interacting with parents too.
I now don’t worry about putting signs on the classroom window. I doubt they’d be read. I don’t see as many parents on a regular basis to pass on messages. Paper newsletters were time consuming for me to make and often got lost or buried at the bottom of a child’s bag.
As always, an ongoing stream of two-way information is important. I have found the more parents are kept informed and involved in their child’s learning, the more successful and smooth the child’s education is.
Every fortnight I email parents a class newsletter.
I wrote about this in 2010 but the main points of my system are:
- I collect parent email addresses via a Google Doc form. I invite families to complete this at the end of the previous school year. I also use this form to collect more information about the child’s strengths, weaknesses, interests etc.
- There are always a couple of parents without email addresses (I’m finding this is becoming less frequent). I print paper copies for these families.
- I put email addresses in the BCC field of my emails to preserve parents’ privacy.
- Kelly Jordan and I have surveyed our parents a couple of times and found they really enjoy this method of communication.
- I invite parents to contact me via email if it is easier for them. Many embrace this option.
Our class blog provides information and a window into our classroom.
- The 4KM and 4KJ blog is updated 2-4 times a week. Parents are encourage to subscribe and comment.
- The blog houses a lot of information about what is happening in our classroom, including a regularly updated Google Calendar on the left sidebar. This calendar also helps the students to get organised.
I’ve found the class blog combined with parent emails means there is always a channel of information available for parents.
Of course some face-to-face contact always needs to be prioritised. For example, last week we held a successful Family Blogging Afternoon where students could teach a special person in their life about blogging and global collaboration. This is part of our Family Blogging Month celebrations.
As the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development points out “Family participation in learning is one of the most accurate predictors of a child’s success in school and beyond.” While this message has remained constant over the years, the way participation is taking is place continues to evolve.
I’d love to find new ways to continue to make parent communication easy and effective for all parties. What ideas do you have?