Creating a strong school-to-home connection can be so important for the success of the school year. School-to-home communication is a two-way street and when you initiate the process you are truly working with everyone's best interests in mind. When you openly communicate about what is happening in the classroom, parents and guardians are able to be more supportive of their child's education. And while families may benefit from staying in the loop with all of the classroom happenings, open communication from school to home can also greatly impact student achievement. Here are five tips for communicating with families about classroom activities, student learning and progress, and giving a glimpse of what is happening day-to-day.
How can you effectively communicate with families?
There are so many different ways to communicate with families; while technology has opened up a whole new world for school-to-home connections, choosing a consistent method of communication can prove to be the most effective in keeping families informed.
Your updates can include what is happening in class, student accomplishments, upcoming events or projects, special days, birthdays, content objectives, homework and classwork policies, and anything else that is important for you and your students. You can choose the frequency of your communication as well and be sure to remain consistent (as a parent, I know I look for the updates each Friday, first of the month, or beginning of the week!).
Here are a few ideas for school-to-home communication:
- One tried and true way to keep families informed is to send home a classroom newsletter. Once you create a newsletter you can share it any way that works!
- Using an app such as Remind or Seesaw is a great way to keep your information private while easily sending photos, messages, newsletters, student work, and updates from your phone or computer.
- Sending emails directly to family members can also be a quick way to address something specific.
1. Develop a Sense of Trust:
It is so important that families trust their child's teacher and communicating effectively can help to create and build that trust. When you communicate and include parents and guardians in your classroom community, you are showing that you have their child's best interests in mind.
When you are responsive to any concerns that families may have, you are showing your support for their child.
2. Be Positive:
Getting a note or a call from the teacher may seem intimidating to students…and family members too. Teacher communication can many times have negative connotations and adults can recall a “bad note” or “bad phone call” home from when they were younger. Keep your communication positive! Send home positive notes, start conversations off by making a connection to something personal about the student, and discuss positive attributes about the student before noting any challenges.
3. Be Consistent:
At the beginning of the school year, it may feel a little easier to stay on top of things than it is as the year goes on. But, if you are sending a weekly/monthly newsletter, or daily charts/notes home, be consistent with it. Families will come to expect communication on given days or weeks. They can only be as informed as you let them be, so be consistent.
Consistency is important because it allows families to form a routine for checking school work and important papers. Parents and guardians can plan on when they will get information from the teacher and can create habits at home with a consistent understanding of things happening in the classroom. When homework, projects, events, and due dates are clear, families can plan ahead for the time needed to complete the tasks or to attend the occasion. If communication is sporadic, it can be harder for families to follow and keep track of what is happening in the classroom.
When updates and news are communicated on a regular basis, families will be more likely to value you and the happenings within your classroom. Find something that is simple to keep up with and does not feel like one more thing added to your plate. Family communication should be a regular habit, not a stressor. If once-a-week messages or notes feels like too much, start with once a month!
4. Try to Be Accommodating:
Ask students and their families about their preference for communication and try to use that to contact them. Families are busy, you are busy…you don't want to be taking time to track down a parent; so try to find something that is easy for both of you!
Another way to be accommodating is to keep communication short and sweet. If you have a lot to say, break it down into a shorter message and reply to follow up. This will help ensure that families have time to read and digest the information you’re sending them.
5. Be Mindful of Family Situations:
There are many different family situations to be aware of. Be mindful and accepting of students' home life by being respectful and understanding. This may mean more than one conference, multiple newsletters sent home, or varying pick-up procedures. No matter the situation, it is important to listen to any concerns and work to keep communication open with the adults that are present for your students.
It is also important to consider holidays and special events that are happening in students’ families and be respectful of different traditions and customs that are important to families as they come up throughout the year.
Keeping the home-to-school connection open and consistent with your students' families will make family members feel welcome in the classroom and school community. Being inviting to parents and guardians fosters a sense of partnership between home and school, which can be exponentially beneficial for students and for you as family members are more likely to be supportive of their child’s education and of you, as their teacher.
Effective and consistent communication can create trust and understanding that will help your students grow in your classroom and provide a support system to help you throughout the year.
Find some of my favorite school-to-home resources here: