5 Ways to Increase Parent-Teacher Communication

5 Ways to Increase Parent-Teacher
Marguerita Guerra
How often do you communicate with the parents of your students? It can
seem overwhelming to make contact with parents all the time, especially as
secondary teachers. And it becomes even more challenging if the same
language is not spoken. We have 5 times the amount of students as
elementary, and we can’t stick a newsletter in their backpacks in the hopes
that Mom or Dad will find it. My first year teaching high school I taught tenth
graders, and it seemed like I was on the phone every day for an hour after
school contacting parents. That got tiresome really quick, and it was so
time consuming! Over the years, technology has designed methods to
communicate with parents that won’t keep you at school an extra hour.
1.​ Interactive Notebooks. ​Many teachers are already using interactive
notebooks in their classes. Students and teachers put a great deal of time
and effort into those notebooks, so why not make sure parents are
checking in on their work?! Each quarter, give your students a page to glue
in for parent checks. It could be a simple table (see picture above) that
allows parents to sign off and leave a comment if they wish. It is a great
way for parents to start a conversation with their child about what they are
learning in class. Giving extra points on a test persuaded my students to
have their parents sign.
2. ​Remind (Formerly known as Remind 101)​.​ ​When I was an assistant
principal, this free website was my #1 recommendation to staff as a form of
communication with students and parents. Remember recent arrivals may
not have a phone so a second form of communication is recommended.
Nevertheless, Remind is a website that allows you to send announcements
and reminders to students’ and parents’ phones. You can use the website,
but having the app on your phone allows you to send reminders anytime.
The reminders show up as a text message, but the beauty of this site is
the students’ and teachers’ phone numbers cannot be seen. (it shows up
as a random telephone number). Big test tomorrow? Remind students to
study. Field trip tomorrow? Remind students what they need to bring. It’s
literally as quick as sending a text message. New is a chat feature, which
allows students and parents to respond to your messages and chat back
and forth. However, this can all be accomplished with ​Class Dojo and it
translates into 35 different languages.
Create a class titled “parents” and a class titled “students.” This way, you
can differentiate your messages. When you create the classes, it will give
them a unique code they use when they sign up. I have the codes ready on
a flyer to hand out at Open House and include it on my Welcome Letter at
the beginning of the year. I also have the codes listed on my classroom
website (more on this in a minute) so if you missed Open House, you can
still get the code. Parents love to be “in the know” of what is going on at
school, and in this day-in-age, people always have their phone by them.
Another type of e communication is ​Bloomz. Bloomz​ functionality is
similar to that of Facebook, which most parents use. Daily photos and
videos of the students can be displayed, conferences scheduled, find
volunteers for class events, and message parents throughout the day.
Parents are able to scroll through the app and see their student hard at
work. Posting on ​Bloomz​ can become such a regular part of your day that
students will look forward to showing off their work—and parents get
anxious when you don’t post something for the day. ​Class Dojo​ allows
you to post photos also.
3. ​Class Website. ​Many district websites have teacher pages that teachers
can post to. The question is: How effectively are you using it? A few things
to add to your website make it effective — a calendar with important due
dates, links to important resources (such as an online textbook and internet
tutorials such as Khan Academy), codes for your Remind account, tutorial
days, and anything else that will help students be successful in your class.
Some calendars post what is done in class each day. Perhaps you can
post your syllabus or lesson plan or daily agenda. If a student is absent or
a parent wants to know what his child is learning, all he has to do is check
the calendar. I know some teachers who post their
PowerPoints/worksheets and even answer keys to assignments on their
calendars. Be careful that you aren’t posting anything that is copyrighted,
as you can get hit with fines. ​Class Dojo does all this and more.
4. ​Home Access Center. ​Encourage parents to register for Home Access
center or whatever the software in your district is using. Make sure the link
to the grade book is current to avoid misunderstandings. When parents are
registered, ​they can access a convenient web portal to view their student’s
test scores, attendance, assignments, discipline records, and more
information available anywhere and at any time.​ It’s a great way to monitor
student progress. If parents don’t have internet access, another great
method of making sure parents see grades is by requiring a parent
signature on their progress reports. Yes you will get a few forgeries, but for
the most part, students will get them signed. You can even write notes on
them, like “Sarah is doing awesome in class, and deserves a special meal.”
The students feel special, and parents appreciate getting positive notes,
not just negative ones.
5. ​Emails. ​I know what you are thinking; ​quick f​ orms of communication are
needed. Don’t you worry — this won’t take you long. This may be the only
form of communication for some parents and students. So why don’t you
send an email home for the times they have good behavior? To save time,
type up a generic note to parents that you could use for multiple students.
Something like “I just wanted to let you know that Jose did awesome today
in science class! He was on task and got all his work completed. I would
love for you to recognize his good behavior! I appreciate all your efforts at
home that help make him successful at school.” Now click Save. You can
copy and paste this into an email and change the name out for different
students. Type 5 or 6 different ones that can be used based on the student
and situation. Let me tell you: When a typically rowdy student gets positive
praise sent home, they will start to work wonders for you! Students are
happy, parents are happy, and teacher is happy. Try it. It’s worth the 5
minutes it takes to send that email. Messages can be sent via ​Class Dojo