The air is growing crisp and the school year is starting to settle in. Maybe you have started to feel like you are back in the swing of things and your routines are actually routine. That can only mean one thing – parent conferences are right around the corner!
The first parent conference can give parents, teachers, and students lots of anxiety. You may have found, as a teacher, that parents bombard you with questions way before conferences. One of the best ways to ease tensions for all parties is regular communication before, and after, the parent conference.
Here are a few ways you can keep communication a positive experience.
Start Off Strong
At the beginning of the school year, you should establish a way for parents to keep up to date on what is happening in the classroom. For the past few years, my grade level team has sent out a weekly or biweekly newsletter. We give curriculum updates, reminders for upcoming events, and things they can ask their child about school. We all know that when kids go home and they are asked, “What happened at school today?” parents are often met with a shrug or “I don’t know.” By offering specific questions parents can ask, you will help them start that conversation with their child. I like to send our class newsletter via email as well as a hard copy. Often times papers get lost. It can also be easier for a parent to read a newsletter on a train, bus, or any way that doesn’t require fetching things out of a backpack.
Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are now making their way into the regular expectations for school communication. While I don’t personally use these forms of social media for my class, our school keeps accounts and parents really love checking in this way. They can also let family members who live far away know about the accounts. Grandparents love to see what’s going on at school! One word of caution if using social media, be sure to know your school’s policy about posting pictures of students. Most schools do not allow posting pictures on your personal accounts but accounts associated with the school are ok. Parent permission is key here!
Keep It Up
One thing I have learned in my years is that it is best to contact parents about great things in school before you have to make a hard phone call home. When your first contact is about a problem, it is tough to get back on track. One practice that I have implemented, inspired by another brilliant teacher in my life, is to make a good phone call home for three students every week. Sometimes I write it as a note and put it in their folder, sometimes it is an email. I try to make it a regular practice to send good news home as often as I can. No parent wants to only hear negative things about their child – and every single child shines in some way.
On the flip side, making hard phone calls or reports home is hard on everyone. I really don’t like communicating about how a school day has gone awry. In the past when I dragged my feet on tough communication it didn’t work out well. Make sure to tackle it soon – and with a plan.
What about you? What ways have you found success when communicating with parents? We’d love to hear some new ideas – things that worked and maybe things that don’t work.
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About the Author:
Meg Howe is an elementary school teacher at a charter school in Boston, MA. She has been a teacher for 11 years spanning grades K – 5. Meg has spent time teaching in public, private, and charter schools in Bellingham, WA, Rome, Italy, Los Angeles, CA, Buffalo, NY, and Boston, MA. Meg also runs her own blog at AliceEverAfter.com that features her thoughts on children’s literature. She has a passion for picture books and middle grade books and hopes one day Kate DiCamillo can be her new best friend.