Back to school time is full of fun, excitement, and nerves for students, parents and teachers. We all get a little bit of the jitters! The beginning of the year is a wonderful time to establish warm and connected relationships with the families of your students.
I was surprised to recently read in a social media group I am part of that teachers were encouraging each other to have the least amount of communication as possible with parents because it was easier. I was so disheartened, but I just know if teachers and parents both want the best for children, we can partner together.
Although there are always years where there are difficult relationships, disconnection, or challenges in communicating and working with families, I found that starting the year with lots of communication really helps the year go more smoothly, and helps families to know that you do care for and know their child.
Here are 5 Tips I follow that have really worked well for me. They take extra time, but just like teaching classroom routines, that time is an investment that really pays off!
1. Send home a warm and inviting summer introduction letter!
I have posted more about this in a separate post, but sending home an engaging summer letter that gets their child excited about the adventures of the new school year is so crucial! This will help them to feel connected to you before they send their little one off on the first day! We also know that when their children are excited and happy, so are most parents!
2. Send home an On Our First Day letter or e-mail
I know the first day is super crazy. It’s hard to find time to use the bathroom, eat, or even finish that morning coffee before the end of the day. This letter has really made a difference for my families. You can make the letter ahead of time and just include pictures of the classroom and bulletin board, or you can take a few photos the first day and include them. I also prewrite the letter since I know what we have on our agenda for that first day.
Here’s an example of a one pager:
Call Every Family the First Week
I know this sounds like a big feat because the back to school season is buzzing with activities and todo lists!… But being a parent myself, I know how much it means to me to know my child is valued and worth a quick call! After all, they send their little treasured loved ones to us each day!
Here’s a quick and generic “First Home Communication” Sheet I use as a guide.
I put some notes about the child as the week goes on so I have some things to share. I pay attention and jot down names of siblings. Something they love to do (sport or activity they’ve shared), a favorite space in the classroom, or pets they have. These are great things to share with families because they know their child is important to you! It is also a great way to be sure that you are taking the time to talk to each child, and no one is kind of hiding in the crowd.
Set up a Regular Communication Routine
I like to collect parent preferred contact information early on in the year. At latest I collect this information at back to school night/ open house, but I often send home a basic information collection page the first day!
A new discovery of mine has been a service called Remind! I set up a class, have parents sign up and join, and then I can quickly and easily communicate with them throughout the school year!
Share Pictures Regularly
Once you’ve gotten into the routine of communicating, share pictures if you can! My daughters school recently started using an app called Bloomz. It reminds me of Remind, but she shares posts with lots of photos each and every day. While that may not be feasible on the regular, it’s really meaningful to see your child engaged and happy in learning. It gives parents a peek into the classroom. Sharing pictures like this really goes a long way with parents as they appreciate the effort and they can see evidence that your classroom is a great place to be.
Will challenges still come up throughout the year? Might you have a misunderstanding with a family? Might a parent even be upset, angry, or demanding of change in your classroom? YES! But all of these issues that come up are much easier to navigate when you know the family, they know you, and they know that you love their child.