Communication with families is critical in the classroom, but what exactly does that mean? In the digital world where there are a plethora of ways teachers can communicate with student families, the idea of staying connected with them can feel overwhelming. However, if you can follow my tips below, no matter which avenue you choose, you’ll find your communication with families will be a breeze!
Stay On a Consistent Schedule
Before choosing HOW you will communicate with families, you need to decide HOW OFTEN you will communicate with families. Depending on your students ages, grade level, language skills and your role in the building, you may want to consider daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly updates. A Special Education teacher with a class of non-verbal students may require daily communication. Whereas, an Art Teacher who sees children once a week may only need monthly updates.
Once you decide on your schedule, let families know how often you will be in contact and stay consistent with it! Less is more! If you send one e-mail a week, it is more likely to be read. Sending multiples could get your messages lost in the inbox!
One way I have always found to help me stay consistent is to use a template for your communication with families. I have been using these FREE newsletter templates for years. It makes my weekly updates a piece of cake! (I show the templates in more detail on a previous blog post here) Once I set up my first one, I simply swap out the details each week. The easier it is, the more likely I am to stay consistent.
Choose Your Preferred Form of Communication with Families
In the digital era, there are so many different routes you can take for communication with families. Each serves it’s own purpose. What works for one teacher may be used differently by another. Choose the method that will help you stay consistent to the schedule you chose. As a classroom teacher, I have always found a weekly newsletter of academic happenings worked best for communication with families. I save it as a PDF and attach it to an email every Sunday (Use the Schedule Send feature so you don’t have to work on the weekends!). If you use a template, swapping out the details each week is a cinch!
I also choose to put important details, dates, events, and news in the body of the e-mail over a newsletter. Here’s why! I want it to be SUPER easy for a parent or guardian to find the information they need. If they forget when Field Day is, they should be able to search their Inbox for “Field Day” and find the information right away! To me, there is not much more you could do for a busy family than make it super easy for them to access important information about their kids. (Don’t forget to check they are getting your emails in the first place! There’s a great print out in this back to school communication pack to send home to check on that!)
It is always better to front load with information that may change than to give important details too late. This is why I have always sent out newsletters proactively at the start of the week. I always include a disclaimer at the bottom of each newsletter, “Life in the classroom can sometimes be unpredictable. Daily happenings are subject to change. This is a goal for the week. Thank you in advance for your patience!” To me, if you are just telling families Friday night that there was an assembly Tuesday morning, you just robbed a child of the opportunity to have rich school-based conversation at the dinner table Tuesday night.
This is why I often include questions for your kids as a part of my newsletter. I want children practicing their language skills, speaking about their school day in their own terms, and giving specific details to their families about what they’re doing all day! Check out my sample below.
Use Inclusive Language in All Communication with Families
Families come in all shapes and sizes. We spend so much time teaching our students this lesson (Families, Families, Families is a GREAT read aloud to help do so!). We need to keep that in mind as we speak to families as well. Instead of “Mom and Dad” or “Parents,” I always write to the class as “Dear Classroom Families.” This covers all bases no matter who is responsible for the little one in your room (in the classroom, I refer to them to the students as “Your Grownup” – inclusive for all.. but that’s a blog post for another day). Similarly, remember to write “your student” versus “your child” as it may be a grandchild, niece, nephew, foster child etc.
I love to send home a family survey at the start of the year. (Read more about EVERYTHING I send home here). This helps me learn a little bit about the child, their interests, the family structure, and any other important information parents may want to share. I use the one included here. I also send the parents stories about myself sprinkled throughout communication with families during the year. This helps bring personality to the person behind the writing and also builds connection and relationship!
Let Social Media Be the Icing on the Cake
Being so picture/video based, Social Media (a new school based account, not your personal one!) can be the best way to share the daily happenings in the classroom. While it may not be the best way to give out detailed important information, it does help families see their kids in action! As a mom, there is nothing I love more than to see pictures of my own children at work in the classroom- and in real time! Let Social Media be a fun way to share media from the classroom without having to worry about a consistent schedule.
Just remember, if you are going to use Social Media, you need signed consent! I always use the Tech Release Form in this parent communication pack. Plus, there’s the added bonus of sheets to send home with your school social media handles. Snap some pictures and post away throughout your day. Inspiration for conversation between families and their kids!
Have a Back Up Plan!
Stuff happens. The power goes out. E-mails don’t work. Things change midday. God forbid, an emergency! Have a back up plan to send last minute reminders to families. A texting app, like Remind, is great for this! That way, when you remember Tuesday night that Wednesday is Pajama Day and you forgot to tell parents in your newsletter, you have a back up plan to get the information to everyone without flooding their inbox! Teachers may be superheroes, but we still need a Plan B!
What are some tips, tricks, and teacher hacks YOU use in communication with families? Which one above was your biggest *aha* moment? Let’s discuss in the comments below!