By Laura Sport, fourth grade English language arts teacher in Hamilton County
As a teacher, we know that communicating with our students’ parents is an important part of supporting student learning. However, written communication with parents can be tricky. It should be done often, but not too often. You should communicate progress, but too much information can be intimidating. Behavior issues need to be communicated, but not all communication should be about discipline. Finding the right balance takes effort and should be purposeful.
In my classroom, technology has greatly influenced communication. Gone are the days of hand-written notes. More and more teachers are using apps like Remind and Class Dojo to communicate. While these apps are convenient and immediate, they require our messages to be smaller in content
To avoid miscommunication with parents, I want to share five tips that have shaped the way I communicate. They are not foolproof, but they provide me with an easy framework that helps to minimize misconstrued messages.
When it comes to their children, parents are very passionate. They fiercely advocate for them and defend them. Matching their passion can be counterproductive. Staying factual always helps me keep my emotions in check, especially when sharing information about student discipline.
2. Be brief and to the point
Many apps require that messages be brief. The Remind app limits messages to 140 characters. Getting a message across with very few words can become a science. I constantly ask myself, “What must be said?” Staying on point allows me to clearly share the most important information I need parents to know.
Begin the school year with a positive statement. Informing the parents of a good behavior choice or an academic success is a great first step toward building a relationship. Having trust with your parents allows for a better line of communication.
4. Keep it goal-oriented
Always work with an end in mind. The message should be geared toward finding a solution. Sometimes the best way to end is by posing a question to the parents. Ask the parents to brainstorm ways that you can work together to find a solution. This reinforces the idea that you are a team working for the student’s success.
If you ever feel like communication with a parent is derailing, copy your administrator on the email or message. On several occasions, I have included my administrator when I felt that the parent was becoming accusatory and getting personal. It’s also important for your administrator to be briefed on the miscommunication in case the parent contacts them.
Whenever I have had a miscommunication with a parent, I can almost always attribute it to not following one of these rules. The ability to clearly communicate can be very powerful; it can pave the way for a productive relationship with a parent that ultimately best supports your students.
Laura teaches at Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences where the educational philosophy, dedicated staff, and supportive administration provide a wonderful facility for learning. As well as being a teacher, she is a mother and wife. In her personal time she enjoys reading, gardening, traveling, time with friends, and developing her craft as a teacher.