We outline the best ways to connect with parents this school year.
Decades of research demonstrates positive teacher-student communication is a key to student success in school.
Studies show that students — regardless of family income or educational level — do best when parents feel like they know what is going on at school. These students tend to have higher grades, attendance, and promotion rates than those whose parents are out of touch.
Longtime educator Sheila Rogers, who was a teacher, principal, and superintendent before being elected president of the Gilbert Public Schools Governing Board, says one of the secrets to her success has been proactive communication with parents.
As a teacher and principal she would choose five families a day to phone or email to share positive news about their students.
“I felt it was important to take the time to let parents know that their kid was doing great,” she says. “It only takes a few minutes.”
Then, if a negative call or email needed to be sent home later, a positive relationship had already been established.
Kyrene School District parent and former Governing Board President Michelle Hirsch says she appreciates class websites — as long as they are kept up-to-date.
“It is frustrating as a parent to go to a website only to find last year’s assignments or other outdated information,” she says.
She also welcomes regular class newsletters. She says it does not matter whether they are sent home in backpacks or posted on a website.
“I recall one teacher giving ‘parent prompts’ — things I could ask my child about that related to what they were learning,” she says.
Hirsch says it also is important for teachers to learn the best ways to communicate with parents. Some prefer calls, some texts, and some emails.
“Texting a message may be the best method [for you], but ask parents if that is the best method for them,” she says. “If parents prefer email, make sure teachers have the correct email to reach that parent. Some parents don’t have access to technology such as email access on their phone, or they may not even have access to their phone during their work hours.”
Parents who work long hours with no phone access may prefer notes and newsletters.
Some school districts collect parent emails and make them available to teachers through grading and attendance taking software programs like Synergy.
ClassDojo.com is another popular tool with teachers. It allows them to communicate daily with parents about classroom successes and, if needed, problems.