For K-12 teachers, part of welcoming students to the new school year involves laying the groundwork for productive working relationships with parents.
Educators understand the value of a building a tight partnership with families and recognize the significant benefits it yields. When parents are involved in their education, students are more likely to attend classes, become more engaged and perform better on exams and other schoolwork. So, cultivating strong relationships and collaborative environments are top priorities for everyone on a school’s staff.
And parents do want to be more involved, according to a survey by Learning Heroes. The organization found that two in five parents worry their child won’t be prepared for college, for example. More than half say they want more information and resources so they can help their children succeed.
Although educators face numerous obstacles to increasing parental involvement, schools can take advantage of several opportunities to improve communications. If you’re a teacher, here are six ideas to help you better engage with your students’ parents.
1. Foster more dialogue
Schools have access to more communications channels than ever before, but choosing the right ones can be tricky. Some parents expect a phone call for news about their child, while others prefer the speed and discretion of text messages. To hone in on the right mix, survey parents. The results will help you determine the most effective channels to use.
2. Become mobile first
Remember that many parents are on the go and rely on their mobile phones to stay in touch. That makes it more likely they’ll prefer real-time notifications via text messaging. Take advantage of SMS technology to get parents’ attention early and often, and be sure to tailor other types of communications, such as email, to the mobile environment.
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3. Personalize the experience
With electronic gradebooks, teachers have more information about students at their fingertips. With data such as grades and attendance integrated into the phone system, teachers can hold more productive conversations with parents and resolve issues more quickly.
4. Break the mold on teacher conferences
While in-person parent-teacher conferences are a tradition, they’re often not convenient. For numerous reasons, parents can’t always make to the school and the teacher is left with an empty seat. However, new communications technology provides more suitable options. In Washington, D.C., for example, schools are rethinking the traditional conference concept by adopting a team-based model, reports the Washington Post. One way to extend this model is to use video conferencing to bring parents together.
5. Communicate in a crisis
In case of a crisis, it’s crucial to have a plan for alerting parents as a situation develops. Automated notification systems deliver news rapidly by text message or phone, but be sure to educate parents about how such systems work. Encourage them to sign up for alerts by sharing details about the service on your website, discussing them at PTA meetings and making it easy to sign up by phone or web form.
6. Grade your communications
Just as in the business world, it’s important for K-12 administrators to measure their communications efforts. Technology makes it easier for them to track metrics such as the number of outbound communications, the time it takes to resolve issues and the frequency of parent-teacher conferences. Administrators and teachers can learn what works well and what needs to be improved.
Communications may be just one aspect of parent-teacher relationships, but it’s a significant one. K-12 educators can get it right by paying attention to parents’ preferences and putting the right tools in place.