Three Types of Communication Your District Should be Using for Parent Engagement

February 03, 2020

Communicating with parents should be easy, but educators everywhere experience hangups with their communication tools.

That’s because we have different goals for communicating with parents each time we reach out. For example, when it’s icy in February and schools aren’t opening, the goal of your district communication is keeping students safe and off the road. When you text a picture to parents who are new to the district to show them their child is making friends and fitting in, your goal is probably to ease fears and build a welcoming environment.  

Not every piece of information is appropriate for the entire classroom - and building relationships with stakeholders doesn’t happen over text blasts to the entire school. That’s why there are three basic forms of parent communication that every district needs in its toolkit. 

Two-way Communication

There are different types of communication between parents and teachers and each has their own set of goals. However, one to one, two-way communication will always be the most impactful way to communicate if you want to improve student performance as well as stakeholder buy-in. This form of communication is one parent talking with one teacher. It might be face to face communication, a phone call, a text, or an email. This form of communication is your foundation.

RELATED: Helping Parents Ask the Right Questions for Better Overall Engagement

The benefits of two-way communication are many. When parents speak regularly with teachers, it builds a relationship of trust. Students can’t learn in an environment where there is no trust. When the adults talk to each other and build that trust with each other, the students will trust the teachers too. 

Targeted, intentional communication about the positive things that a student is doing is also the best way to build a strong school culture. Most parents haven’t been in school for at least 10 years and probably longer. Think about how much education has changed in the last 10 years! Or even 20 years! We need to tell parents about the amazing things we’re doing in school, because when parents ask the kids what they did in school today, the answer will often be “nothing.” 

Two-way communication is also the form of communication that comes with the most struggles. Teachers don’t want to share their personal numbers. Not to mention, when conversations are happening on private lines or in multiple different platforms or apps, administration has little to no oversight, both for professionalism as well as compliance measures. 

Reaching your goals for improved performance and buy-in are possible if your tools for 1:1 communication are measurable as well as automatically recorded and logged. Choose SchoolStatus for your team so that parent calls are logged automatically and serve as a form of security in difficult situations. When your team feels confident and protected in making parent phone calls, those calls can happen with more frequency.

Messaging to a Course

Messaging to an entire class is a great way for teachers to reach out to parents to tell them about upcoming tests or projects. This is a way to deliver information that is pertinent to the entire classroom, but is not personal to each student. It saves time to send one message, and it should be easy to do quickly. But what if your goals with class messaging could go beyond announcements and also contribute to relationship building with parents? SchoolStatus does just that and more: when parents get a message via SchoolStatus, it comes from the same number teachers already use. As far as a parent is concerned, you didn’t send a mass message, you sent a message directly to the parent about their kid’s test. 

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One thing educators must remember is that sending a message to a larger group is not communication. It’s an announcement. It’s important, but announcements are one way.  Communication goes both ways. There has to be a back and forth if we want to classify what we’re doing as communication. The beauty of SchoolStatus is that parents can respond to those messages. When a parent responds it doesn’t go to the larger group. Those responses are only seen by the teacher that sent them, the response creates a 1:1 message. So, if a teacher were to send a course-wide message about a test on Friday, and a parent responds “Thanks, what do they need to study?” That “mass” message just spurred 1:1 communication - the very thing that will drive student growth goals. 

Messaging to the District or School

Parent communication is occasionally a matter of school security or safety, and this type of communication calls for large scale messaging. These are messages from a district to all stakeholders that school will be closed due to inclement weather. These are messages from a school telling parents that they are about to conduct a lockdown drill. 

Every district needs a reliable system that will get these types of messages to its stakeholders without fail. The best versions of these tools, like SchoolStatus, will even attempt a second or third method of communication if the first one fails.  

District and school-wide messaging can seem like a life-saver when you want to get a message out quickly. This form of communication is a necessity, and nearly every administrative team has a way to do it. But if you haven’t built a one-on-one connection with parents already, and the only time a parent hears from the school is when campus is closed, you aren’t demonstrating that you care about a child. Building relationships with parents begins with one-to-one communication. District and school-wide communication is important, but it is not what is going to bridge the gap for our students. 

The Right Tools for the Job

You have many different goals when communicating with parents. From quickly communicating about safety measures to building long lasting relationships between individuals, having the right tools for the right job is incredibly important for building and maintaining a relationship with your school community. Give your team a tool that does it all. 

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