Parent Communication

Partnership Building

Communicate Early and Often

The first few weeks of school are mayhem. There is so much to get done and none of us are really in a routine yet. Nonetheless, it is really important to make contact with parents as soon as you can. I like to try to speak with each family within the first two weeks of school. I make a phone call home to ask how the transition is going and to share some positive observation I've made about their child. There are lots of options for making early contact if a phone call seems like a lot or doesn't feel like a good fit for you.


  • 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

Ideally, you will find a way to communicate via phone. Again, the purpose is to touch base with families to find out how things are going and to share a few positive observations you've made about their child. I don't think sharing a couple of things that you are concerned about is a terrible idea. Just work to keep the conversation positive.


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

No one likes making the tough calls or sending out the difficult emails. However, we owe it to our students to also communicate when they are not thriving. When it comes to sharing feedback that is less than glowing, honesty really is the best policy.



  • 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!

The important thing to keep in mind, regardless of what the email might say, is that the parent sent it because they have their child's best interests at heart. Some parents are better equipped to advocate for their children than others. Even when the email is harsh sounding, begin your response email by thanking the parent for contacting you and sharing his/her concerns.


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

Communicating with parents is an important way to ensure that each student you teach has the best chance to thrive. Soliciting parent support can make a big difference for kids. When deciding on a way to communicate, choose a format you'll enjoy. After all, we spend a fair amount of time communicating so you won't want to dread it.

Classroom Websites

There are lots of easy-to-use platforms out there. I use Weebly. Weebly is great because it is FREE and easy to use. Much of my website is static. There are many pages that only get updated over the summer months (when I'm rethinking everything and reinventing myself). Mostly, the pages on my site remain unchanged. They are a resource parents can use throughout the year. I do include a blog page as part of my site. I set a personal goal to blog every two weeks or so. This doesn't always happen. I use the blog to:



  • 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.

The below link will send you to my classroom website. I teach fourth grade and our theme is Harry Potter. Everything is Harry/Hogwarts themed. Be prepared.


www.mrsbrigham.org

Newsletters

Use a monthly newsletter to keep parents up to date. You can use a paper newsletter or a digital newsletter using a platform like Smore. Newsletters are helpful because parents come to expect them and they keep your families up to date on what is going on in your classroom. In your newsletter you can:



  • 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.

Smore

I love Smore. While I don't use it a ton for newsletters, I use it for a lot of other things. Check out a few of my Smore publications. There is even a Smore on how to use Smore!


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

Digital Portfolios

I use SeeSaw. Some of our art teachers are using Artsonia. The powerful nature of these tools is that you can share student work, comment on it, invite students to comment/reflect on it, and invite parents to comment. Sharing progress doesn't have to wait till conferences. Also, you can share student work without feeling like you have to be constantly assessing with quizzes or tests so that parents can monitor progress. Even our youngest students can manage their own SeeSaw accounts. SeeSaw feels like a social media platform so parents learn it easily. Truly, once you get them set up (SeeSaw makes that easy too) it is pretty self-explanatory. Parents who sign up to view their student's work in SeeSaw get an email notification every time something is added to their child's account.

Social Media

Social media is a great way to share what is going on in your classroom with parents. Do use extreme caution though.


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.



  • #MURSD
  • #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.

Contact me!

Please contact me if I can be of any help to you especially as it relates to communicating with parents.


mbrigham@mursd.org

www.mrsbrigham.org

Follow me on Twitter: @MarieMcMB