5 Ways to Increase Parent-Teacher Communication By 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. https://www.classdojo.com/#LearnMore 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 also.