Evolving Parent Communcation

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?

How do you communicate with parents?

How have your approaches to communicating with parents changed over the years?

12 Comment

  1. @moffnz says: Reply

    We also use a text to mobile for reminders like excursions, or if money is required for something.
    Emails in a similar fashion

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      Hi @moffnz,

      Thanks for sharing. What platform do you use to text mobiles? This is a great idea to ‘meet parents where they’re at’ as Chris says.

      Kathleen

  2. Kathleen – love the idea of evolving parent communication. I like to think about it as moving communicating “to” parents to communication “with” parents.

    The big idea for me is to meet parents where they are. As a principal, i try to use as many different methods as I can (paper, email, Facebook, Twitter, blogging, website, SMS, etc) as to model the effectiveness for staff.

    Well done on creating more opportunities for dialogue with families!

    If you are interested, you can read more of my thoughts on family communication and engagement here:
    http://chriswejr.com/category/engagement/

    1. forgot to click for followup comments vis email – doing it now 😉

    2. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks for commenting. It is wonderful to hear from a principal who is so in tune with parent needs. The concept of meeting parents where they’re at is perfect.

      You’ve written some fabulous posts on the topic. I am enjoying reading through them and look forward to recommending them to others.

      Keep up your fabulous work and thanks for sharing,
      Kathleen

  3. Mr Darma says: Reply

    Hi Kathleen,

    It is very important to make sure we keep those lines of communication between school and home well and truly open.

    I have recently started a Classroom Blog which I am hoping parents and families will look at often.

    The other thing I have tried this year is Remind 101. Remind 101 is a text messaging service that parents can sign up to (it initially costs around 50 cents for the parent)They then become a part of your group and receive text messages whenever you send them out. They can also sign up via email for free.

    I chatted online with a consultant from remind101 because I was concerned that it is an american based service that was not guaranteed toi work in Australia. After trialling it it has worked for every one that has signed up.

    I have tried to send not just reminders about upcoming events but have tried to focus more on what we are learning in class, so that conversations will hopefully happen at home that support what we are doing in class.

    I like it and the feedback from the parents has been all positive.

    1. Mr Darma says: Reply

      Sorry,

      I am Gary Darma

    2. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks so much for sharing. I was wondering what options are available for SMS so it’s interesting to hear your experience. I’ll have to check it out more.

      Good luck with blogging! I’m sure your parents will enjoy it as much as you and your students.

      Kathleen

  4. Sheila Stewart says: Reply

    It was great to read about the options you have provided, Kathleen! Also how you have adjusted approaches as technology provided more options. It is always good to get to know the preferences of your parents so that efforts in communication prove useful and effective. I find some parents are reluctant to rely on online spaces to connect and interact, but I think comfort level comes along eventually. It is great that you connected parents in family blogging sessions! I think there is often eagerness to use online spaces to connect with parents, but it is important to help some “dip in” in order to show the potential and ease of this kind of communication. I think many parents are looking for the assurance of the “with”, so the more ways to provide that the better. It sounds like you will remain open and connected to their feedback of what works best for them. Best ahead!

    @sheilaspeaking 🙂

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      Hi Sheila,

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I agree, finding out what sort of preferences and options the parents have available is important. On our Google form survey we did at the start of the year we asked the parents if they have internet at home and iDevices etc. That helps us to work out what level both the students and parents are at. Parent surveys are also a good idea to find out if what we’re doing works for them.

      I’m so glad the Family Blogging Afternoon went well. We’ve done that a few times now and it’s a great way to get a range of family members in and upskill them. The students sure love being ‘the teacher’ and working with their special person. I have found that you can send home as much information as you like but sometimes you need to actually get the parents in to help them learn about our new technologies.

      Thanks for dropping by,
      Kathleen

  5. Hi Kathleen

    Thanks for another relevant and quality blog. I love your Google docs idea. Simple yet very effective. I think the ‘giving out of email’ is a funny one. There are many teachers I work with, who wouldn’t dare give their email address to a parent. Unfortunately for these teachers, with the way life is these days, it is clearly the best way of keeping in touch with parents. Especially those who you seem to be in contact with everyday.

    I’ve made the move up to Grade 6 this year, and I have noticed how little I see of the students’ parents. Outside of interviews, I think I’ve seen and spoken to 2 parents after 12 weeks of 2012.

    Our class blog is finally up and running and I hope my parents will get on board and take an interest that will promote more discussions about school at home. No longer can the child get away with “nuthin” to the ‘What did you do at school today Johnny?” question.

    Can I ask, how many parents/family members did you have turn up to your first ever family blogging day? Has the number increased during the years you have been blogging?

    Thanks

    Jarryd

    PS. I apologise because I almost forgot to attribute my blogging guidelines to both you and Kelly. I hope you don’t mind that they are based on your guidelines. As they say, why reinvent the wheel?

    You both continue to inspire and encourage me everyday! Thank you!

    1. Mrs Kathleen Morris says: Reply

      Hi Jarryd,

      Thanks for the comment and kind words. I also want to say thanks for the comments on the 4KM and 4KJ blog. Trent enjoyed his conversation!

      Yes, there are still many teachers who think giving out their email is something to be worried about. I’ve given out my email to parents for many years and have never had a problem. Of course if people are worried, they can set up another email account just to use as a teacher.

      I’m glad your blog is up and running – I’m sure the parents will love it and you’ll see lots of benefits when you get the momentum going.

      At all our Family Blogging events we’ve had nearly everyone come (maybe 4 or 5 kids don’t have anyone at most). I think the trick is getting the children to make the invitation rather than the teacher sending a note home.

      Cheers,
      Kath

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