Communicating with parents is a challenge. There's the goal of keeping parents informed about what is going on in the classroom as well as the goal of giving them the tools or advice they need to support their children. Creating relationships with parents takes considerable effort and dedication from teachers as well as administrators.
For example, when is the best time of day to call? Would it be better to text? What should I say first? Do they speak English? Do they have a positive opinion of the school? Communicating with parents and fostering engagement is important for student success. However, language barriers, socio-economic barriers, parents' education level and self-esteem all play a part in how your messages are received.
Each parent is different, but some rules apply almost universally.
1. Find something positive to say the first time you talk to a parent
When connecting with a parent for the first time, consider starting with a positive note to build a solid foundation before having to report on their child’s poor behavior or to remind them to send money.
Your goal is to help connect parents with the activities and educational journey of their child, so they can be the best support possible. With that in mind, think about what a parent might need or want to hear.
Perhaps Mrs. Smith has done a great job of getting Johnny to school on time or maybe you can tell that Mrs. Smith has been helping Johnny with his math homework and it has had noticeable results.
Your compliments can be about the student, but they may be more effective to be about the parent. Studies show that parent engagement is negatively effected by parents own lack of self-esteem. The belief that a person was bad at school can have a lasting effect on their children. Help parents feel welcome, competent and capable by using common language, listening to their ideas, and including them in decision making.
2. Be professional and courteous
Begin all conversations, whether on the phone, by text or in an email with a thought towards professional communication.
- Check your surroundings for noise or distraction before making a voice call
- Always introduce yourself clearly
- Express the reason for your communication quickly
- Listen with sincerity
- Avoid using educational jargon
- Check your spelling
- Keep text messages brief
- Avoid using emoji's—especially with someone you don't know yet
3. Keep records for compliance
You never know when you might need a phone recording for unexpected compliance disputes. Custody cases, IEP documentation, and medication administration are some recurring reasons to document not only the occurrence of parent communication but the content as well.
4. Consult the data before you make the call
Before you call or text a parent to discuss assignments, discipline, or even absences, scan the student information available to you and you will speak from a position of greater authority on the well-being of the student.
Absences in other classes, test scores, notes or files may reveal information about a student that pertains to your reason for contacting the parent.
5. Give parents questions to ask their children
Give parents a leg up by offering questions to ask about their child’s assignments such as, “Ask Jose about the web site he’s been designing” or “Have Helen tell you about the air pressure experiment we did in Physics today!”
6. Don’t use language parents won't understand—talk like a human!
Don’t let education jargon be the reason for distance from a parent. Take a moment to remember that you are used to a long list of education acronyms with which a parent may not be familiar.
7. Help parents understand new tech/teaching methods
A lot has changed in the classroom since today’s parents were there. Especially with technology and math, many parents are left feeling unable to help their child with homework and test preparation. Directing parents to the right resources to educate themselves may be the difference between a parent feeling able to help their child with schoolwork or not.
8. Never hesitate to call (the first call is always the hardest)
We’ve all become fairly reliant on text messaging - but the truth is a phone call does wonders for connecting two people.
The tone and warmth of your voice, not to mention the effort of making a call, can help parents see your care and intention with their child.
9. Always be truthful
This includes the good and the bad. Nothing will ruin a relationship faster than feeling like you’ve been misled or lied to.
10. Never forget that parents want what is best for their child
You won’t always see eye-to-eye with every parent. Conversations won’t always be easy (people tend to get more upset when they are uninformed or intimidated—especially when it involves someone they love).
Move forward building relationships with optimism. Knowing that schools and parents BOTH want to see successful students should be the bedrock of your communication.
SchoolStatus is the communication tool that integrates key student data in order to increase communication among educators, district administrators and student families. The company’s solution aggregates individual student data, such as state assessments, attendance and grades in an easy-to-visualize format and offers the option to communicate with student families via call, text or email. Through SchoolStatus, millions of communications have occurred on the classroom, campus and district level. For more information about SchoolStatus, visit www.schoolstatus.com.