Effective communication with parents is essential for building positive school-family partnerships. A little work at the beginning of the school year can go a long way to establishing relationships that will benefit you, your students, and parents throughout the year.
Getting parents “on board” begins with positive and open communication. The way in which teachers communicate and interact with parents affects the extent and quality of parents’ home involvement with their child’s learning. For example, communicating positive feedback encourages parent involvement because it makes parents feel that they can effectively help their children at home. Frequent communication not only encourages family involvement, but it also establishes the idea that parents play an important role in their student's success at school.
When you establish relationships with parents at the beginning of the year, they benefit from a greater understanding of the school’s academic program and how it works. They begin to understand what their child is learning and, with your help, they benefit from getting ideas on how to best support their children at home. Perhaps most importantly, parents benefit from becoming more confident about their role in the family-school partnership.
Substantial evidence exists showing that parent involvement benefits students with an increased motivation for learning, improved behavior, more regular attendance, and a more positive attitude about homework and school in general. Establishing relationships with parents now can lead to increased student achievement later in the year.
Establishing open communication and knowing that you have parent support allows you to more fully incorporate your students’ real-world learning environments and apply this information to tailor instruction that meets their unique needs. Getting parents “on board” and establishing positive communication goes a long way to building the trust that you need to increase parent involvement.
Establishing positive and open communication can happen in a number of ways and is dependent on your teaching situation and parent preferences. While some parents may prefer a weekly newsletter, others may prefer to visit a classroom website. Similarly, some parents may have limited Internet access, while others communicate most easily through email or social media. Effective parent communication can take many forms, including:
- Weekly or monthly parent newsletters
- Class website and/or blog
- Social media
- Phone calls
- Open house night
- Curriculum night
- Weekly or monthly folders of student work sent home for parent review and comment
- Monthly “office hours” for drop-in parent conferences
One effective strategy is to survey parents at the beginning of the year. This not only allows you to get much-needed information about communication preferences, it also establishes your expectations for communication and parent involvement throughout the year. And if you build communication in a way that meets parents’ needs, you’re more likely to continue strengthening the home-school connection throughout the year.
For example, here are some questions you may want to include in your survey:
- What’s the best way to let you know what’s going on at school?
- How often do you like to be contacted about what’s going on at school? Daily, weekly, or monthly?
- How comfortable are you when it comes to helping your child with homework?
- What are your biggest concerns about this year?
- What are you most excited for your child to learn this year?
Online tools, such as Survey Monkey or Google Forms, allow you to easily create surveys with a variety of question types and compile the results automatically for data analysis. These survey tools can also be helpful throughout the year, as you continually involve parents and connect them to what’s going on in the classroom.
No matter which communication tools you select, the most important thing is establishing positive relationships to increase parent involvement and support expectations for the role that parents will play in their child’s learning throughout the year.