Communicating with families can often feel like just one more thing but proactively communicating with families can make a huge difference if, and when, any issues arise with students or families. In today’s blog post, I am going over three simple things that teachers can do to improve in their communicating with families. When families feel like they are viewed as partners in the learning process, they are less likely to have complaints, frustrations, or feel blindsided by school information.
1. Provide frequent updates on the learning
Teachers should provide frequent updates on the learning happening in the classroom when they are communicating with families. Families want to know what their children are learning. The thing I hear the most from families is that they ask their children how school was or what they learned and their child responds with “I don’t remember,” “fine,” or “nothing”. When they know the general topics children are learning about then they can ask more specific information. (One of my most favorite handouts to parents this year was about what questions to ask besides, “how was your day?”)
In order to improve communicating with families, teachers should find a system that works for them. I go into some pros and cons for different ways to do this here. Teachers should decide on how they will communicate with families and how often they will be communicating with families. This will help teachers feel less overwhelmed when they have a system that works well for them. Once they communicate that with families, families will feel less stressed and in the dark knowing exactly what to expect and how they can get updates.
In addition to sharing what students are learning in school, I like to provide simple and easy ways that families can connect the learning we are doing in school with things at home and in their everyday life. In my weekly newsletter, I usually add a piece of what students can do at home. For example, “In reading, we are learning to reread and learn more each time! At home, reread a favorite book and discuss what is something new you noticed this time!”
2. Don’t wait for conferences to share concerns
Being proactive with your communicating with families is the best way that you can help families feel like partners, instead of feeling blindsided by information. The number one way that you can do this is to not wait until parent-teacher conferences to share academic concerns or to have difficult conversations. If something is concerning you behaviorally, socially, or academically, you should reach out to parents to have a meeting. I think that face-to-face (or virtually) is better than on the phone and definitely better than through email. I go over tips for difficult conversations here. Because I have these meetings as needed, my families have never once been blindsided by report cards or parent-teacher conferences and we are able to work together to support their child.
3. Share wins, as well as difficulties
The final way to improve communicating with families is to make sure to share wins, as well as any difficulties students are facing. As teachers, we are quick to reach out to families with behavior issues, often reaching out to some families weekly with concerns or issues. We need to be mindful to also reach out with good news. All families deserve to know that you care about their child and see their strengths along with areas to grow. I love starting the year out with a positive phone call home and then throughout the year I make sure to share short and quick positive moments with families through email, notes home, or a phone call. You can keep a class list nearby your phone or folders to keep track of who you have already sent positive notes/calls home and who still needs one.
Following these three tips will help your communication with families. When families feel like partners in their child’s learning and they know a bit more about what is happening day-to-day in the classroom, communicating with families won’t just feel like one more thing to do. Proactively communicating with families will feel like an easy and manageable way to build a home-to-school partnership and avoid any issues when difficult conversations arise.