Communicate Early and Often
- Send an email introducing yourself. Get a little personal. Share your goals for the first few weeks.
- Keep a classroom website and include a blog. Introduce yourself and your classroom on the blog. You may need to send a very short email telling parents about the website and blog.
- Send home a classroom newsletter (paper or digital).
- Send home a survey for parents to fill out. Here is a link to the survey I send out: https://goo.gl/nMnRa7
- Send a personalized email inviting parents to Open House. Let them know what you'll be discussing. Sharing an informal agenda helps parents to know that you have carefully planned your time with them and that you won't be wasting their time.
Communicate At Least Once Before Conferences
If you can't make contact by phone, email is a nice alternative. Your goal is to build a trusting relationship with the families of your students. In your email, give a short summary of key learning happening in class, highlight a special activity or project, and remind parents that they can contact you with any questions or concerns.
When the Message is a Tough One
- When communicating by phone, always ask if it is a good time for the family member to talk before jumping into what you have called to say.
- Start by sharing something positive about the child. It is our job to like each child. Find something to share that is positive.
- Share the concern. Speak from a place of care. Be warm. Don't exaggerate or be overly dramatic. Don't make a joke of it.
- Share a few examples if you are able.
- Solicit advice from the family when appropriate.
- Set a goal for the child and outline how you can help the child meet that goal.
- Set a time to communicate again so that you can follow up with the family and offer a progress report.
- Say something kind about the child again, even if it is to repeat your opening comment. Remind the family member that you care deeply about the student and let them know that you are happy that you have their support. Let them know that you will work with the child/family to achieve the goal you've set.
- Thank them for taking the time to speak with you.
If you have to correspond via email, be sure to consider the above points when writing your email. Be gentle. You can't control where a family member will be when they read your email. Receiving a difficult email at work can be heartwrenching. Be kind and sensitive.
Before Responding to a Parent E-mail... BREATHE!
Then, try to respond to their concerns the best you can. If you think there is even a small chance your email may have a tone to it, have someone proofread it before hitting send.
Avoid back and forth communication via email. Instead, suggest a face to face meeting where you can discuss the concern(s) and develop a potential solution to the problem together. If you teach older students (8+ years old) consider inviting the student to this meeting.
Communication Shouldn't Be a Major Chore... Pick a Format or Formats You'll Enjoy
- Highlight the curriculum.
- Share learning accomplishments.
- Shine a light on learning activities.
- Showcase a project.
- Share new resources.
- Give tips (Ex: How to help your child...).
- Publicize an upcoming event
The VERY BEST WAY to get parents to visit your website is to post pictures of their kids or their kids' work! (Make sure you have permission to do so and I recommend not using names.) Preview the blog with your students and ask them to share it with their parents. Follow up with an email reminder to parents to check out the new blog.
- Share how you're addressing the standards.
- Share how the class is progressing (generally).
- Share some ideas for helping the students at home.
- Share a specific learning experience or project.
- Publicize upcoming dates and events.
- Solicit donations (reasonable) and ask for volunteers.
- Paint a picture of what you value as an educator.
A Smore about how to use Smore - https://www.smore.com/9kt70
A Smore that flips the classroom - https://www.smore.com/khx8w
A Smore used as a final project for a grad/SEI class - https://www.smore.com/889b7
When interacting with parents on social media you have to be SQUEEKY clean! You have to be extraordinarily professional even though these outlets lend themselves to being super-casual. I strongly recommend establishing a Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter account that will be used exclusively for educational purposes. Be mindful that these forums are VERY public. Your sharing should be FULL OF POSITIVITY. These platforms are great for sharing classroom activities, projects, student accomplishments, upcoming dates, reminders, etc. Remember to include the MURSD hashtags when you use social media.
- #memupton (for Memorial School)
- #hpclough (for Clough)
- #miscoe (for Miscoe)
- #nipmucpride (for Nipmuc- we reserve #Nipmuc for the native people of the Nipmuc Tribe)
- #MURSDinspires and #MURSDPBL can also be used
I'm a 24 year veteran of the MURSD and I still find the social media piece a little tricky. I only use Twitter. I tweet about my classroom sometimes. I tweet about math a lot as I participate in #elementarymathchat most Thursday evenings. I tweet about my own children's accomplishments once in a while. But...every now and then, I find myself tweeting about something more political in nature. Granted, it is nothing too crazy but I do worry a bit.
In general, social media is a quick and easy way to share the good news about what is going on in your classroom. Just be super careful.