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Now’s the Time to Make Your Communication Plan!
posted by: Melissa | July 25, 2018, 07:25 PM   

If there is one thing that can make or break a school year, it’s how well a teacher manages to communicate with parents. A healthy, open line of communication can make parents your greatest ally and provide them with the tools they need to help their children succeed. When parents are asked what they want from their child’s teacher, inevitably better communication is one of the top responses – even when students are in high school!

This is why parent communication needs to be planned out intentionally. Without a plan, communication can become confused with parents left uncertain about what they need to do in order for their children to be successful.

To make your communication plan, start by thinking what you did last year. If you’re new to teaching, you can think back on what your cooperating teacher did or what you remember from high school. If you never wrote a previous plan down, now is a great time to start.

As you go through your plan, identify what caused issues in the previous year. Did anything cause confusion? Did one method of communication just not get used or not seem to make an impact? Note these methods as areas that you need to rework or possibly abandon. After doing that, double check that there is a system for parents to be notified of what they need to know, mainly what the class is working on and what grades their students are getting. There’s also a host of things that parents would like to have communicated. The biggest of which is how they can support their child at home and what specific activities, resources, or apps they should rely on. Finally, note whether your plan includes communication with non-English speaking parents, students from split homes, or families with other special considerations.

Once you’ve identified the areas that need to be worked on in your communication plan, you need to come up with some way to address them. Every teacher will approach things slightly differently, but there are a few strategies that are known to work well.

First, it helps to be proactive. Plan to communicate information to parents before they need to know it. The only way time-sensitive communication like that will work, is if you use technology – be mindful that just because you use a system, doesn’t mean that your parents will! Data indicates that parents respond to information that is “pushed” to them in a high-visibility manner and that they are unlikely to go and look up information on their own.

It is important also to treat parents as team-members instead of adversaries or stumbling blocks. This can be accomplished a variety of ways, but it’s especially helpful to make time for face-to-face meetings with parents. Scheduling parent-teacher conferences, letting parents know when you’ll be in the classroom and available for a walk-in meeting, and having an open door policy that invites parents to visit classes are all ways to accomplish this. Getting involved with the PTA also sends a message to parents that you want to work with them.

Using the right tools will also make a huge difference. While you’ll want to use the communication tools the school already has access to, there are a wide variety tools that can help fill in the gaps. Email services such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact can help you manage your class email lists and send out attractive looking class newsletters. Similarly, services like Bloomz and Remind make it easy to text parents – a method of communication that has shown to be increasingly popular and particularly effective. For showing off student work, online portfolios like SeeSaw or Bulb may fit the bill. The point is, no matter what you need, there is probably a tool, platform or app already out there that can make communication easier!

The most important thing to remember as you put your plan together is to make it sustainable and accessible. Make it easy for you and for your parents to keep on top of. You may even want to offer mini tutorials for parents who need a little help getting started. Writing personal notes to each child every month may seem like a wonderful way to communicate but be realistic about whether you’ll really have time for that!

And of course, for any plan to work, it’s best to have it in place on day one.

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