Communication has always been paramount in education. Between colleagues, between teachers and students, and between school and home.
Now, more than ever, communication is key. Especially in order to share expectations and details about changes that are unique to the times.
I’ve heard from teachers that during distance learning it was often tough to keep in touch with parents. Setting up a system for communication at the start of the year is a great way to ensure that you have multiple communication methods and can choose the one that’s best for your families.
Here are a couple of ways you can keep in touch with parents this school year along with pros and cons of each :
Sometimes a quick phone call is the best way to get in touch with a parent. Consider if you need feedback or will need to really have a back and forth conversation. If so, a phone call might be the best way to communicate.
- Family can hear your voice (and understand your tone)
- Opportunity for immediate clarification and feedback
- Quick response
- Builds personal rapport
- Can be time consuming
- The time you are available may not be convenient for families
- There is no record of your conversation
- It’s hard to illustrate a point with a visual
- Typically happens with one family member (or maybe 2 if on speaker)
I might make a phone call to: discuss a serious issue, ask a quick question that I need feedback for, to periodically check in with families.
E-mail is a convenient way to keep in touch about more basic communications and general notices for the classroom.
- Quick to send along
- Can include visuals or photos
- You can use templates to help you send e-mails quicker
- You can reach more than one family at a time
- Families can respond at their convenience
- Time to check into things (like a schedule) before responding
- Creates a record of communication
- Generally not as personal
- Cannot “hear” your tone or ask clarifying questions which may lead to miscommunication
- Some may not have access to , or may not access e-mail regularly
I might use e-mail to: schedule a meeting. send a classroom newsletter or general communication, ask a quick question (Shelby thinks she’s supposed to get hot lunch today, but she has a lunch in her backpack. etc), or check in about the day if that is the routine plan for a child. I do NOT use e-mail to introduce or share issues (academic or behavioral) unless is it the only option available to me.
Communication app like Remind
I have used Remind as a part of our Parent Teacher Organization and there are some great benefits!
- Parents get to sign up to be contacted the way they’d like (text, e-mail, app)
- Scheduled messages
- Ability to send images/ files ( great for newsletters or school or class wide communications)
- Ability to send messages to individuals or groups
- Great for short messages, reminders, bulletins
- Option to allow family members or students to contact one another within the class
- Can contact students directly where appropriate
- Option for paid school plan with more admin functions and features
- you can only send short messages with character limits (at least with the free account)
- number of classes on the free account limited although this has never been an issue for me personally
- Some families still might have struggles with ability to access if they do not have technology or internet access.
Personally, I’d use Remind to: Send out bulletins, reminders, or documents, links to a scheduler, send photos. I wouldn’t use Remind for anything I wouldn’t use e-mail for (any sensitive communications).
Video chats (Google Meet, Zoom etc)
Seeing someone’s face is a great way to communicate in a personal way, especially if in person meetings are not able to be coordinated or are not allowed. Beyond just distance learning, these types of communications are super helpful for including parents who live afar in parent -teacher conferences etc.
- Face to face conversation with clear tone (fewer misunderstandings)
- Immediate feedback and clarification
- Builds personal rapport/ communication
- Ability to discuss sensitive issues
- Can provide visuals/ information/ data
- Multiple people can be invited and engage in the meeting
- Webinar/ whole class meetings are an option as well for informational purposes
- Time consuming
- May be difficult to schedule
- May pose issues of accessibility or convenience for families
When in doubt, don’t count out the benefits of using a good old fashioned letter to communicate with families!
- Can be personal and even fun for students (like a summer introduction letter)
- Delivered without technology
- Able to include visuals
- Some official documents require physical mail
- Deliverable time (takes time to get to the family)
- No back/forth communication
In Person Conferences:
There is something special about sitting across a table from your students’ parents. There is a great connection and ability for you to show them and clearly communicate with them while receiving feedback and answering or asking questions.
- Highly personal
- Opportunity for immediate feedback/clarification
- Can discuss sensitive issues
- Opportunity to provide materials & visuals
- Time consuming
- May not be convenient or accessible for families
- May not be feasible with social distancing protocols
There are also some Learning Platform Communications (like Google Classroom)- These platforms sometimes offer options to send parents automatic updates about assignments. It’s an option, but I don’t know a lot about it, and I have to say the ones I received weren’t really that helpful for me as a parent. If you have a great way to use them, please let me know!