Thursday, July 6, 2017

5 Things You Can Do When Parent Communication is Difficult

Parent communication can be difficult.  In my heart, I know that all parents WANT to be considered a team member in their child's education, I think they just struggle to know how. I work in a Title 1 school and their are so many aspects of poverty that put and keep parents in survival mode that they struggle to balance it all.  However, this makes our job as teachers a little more difficult so I have brainstormed some ways to make it happen.

First, lets talk about different methods of contact-



Personal communication, in my opinion, is the most important and includes face to face meetings and phone calls.  It can also be one of the most challenging though.  Parents may not show up to scheduled meetings, return phone calls, or even provide you with a current phone number.  It is still important to keep trying to make those contacts.


Digital communication, in my opinion, is the easiest and includes emails, texts and apps.  Apps like Class Dojo and Remind make it really easy to spread information to multiple people at a time.  They also make it easy to handle quick communication tasks such as "Little Johnny isn't feeling well.  I took his temperature, but he doesn't have a fever so he is taking a short nap in the Book Nook. I'll let you know how he is doing!"  Be careful here though and don't engage in serious conversations here.  It's difficult to imply tone in a digital communication.


Written communication is my least favorite way of communication and includes handwritten notes and newsletters.  Yes, it's easier to write a note home but I often wonder how many of those notes actually make it home.  This may work better if you have a planner or folder that has to be signed everyday.  I do think that students will make sure they take something home and hand it directly to their parents if you make it meaningful for them.  Announcements about performances or good notes home usually get handed over. 

Tip 1- Send everything home multiple ways.  If I send a newsletter home, I send a dojo/remind message AND tell the kids to make sure their family sees it so they know about XYZ.

Tip 2- Focus on positive communication at first, especially with the most difficult parents.  Everyone likes to hear good things about their child.  When I have parents sign up for Dojo, I right away send them a message about how excited I am to work with their child.  I continue sending positive messages home no matter how small.

Tip 3- Play up the easy 2 way communication of digital apps.  I tell my parents that if they sign up for Class Dojo that they will get access to pictures of their students, good notes home and occasionally notes from their child!  (I let students use the desktop version of Dojo to send notes- it works really well as a reward on behavior contracts!) I also make sure parents know that its an easy way to reach me and share information!

Tip 4- Invite parents in for a performance or event.  We had the BEST parent involvement when our students completed a wax museum.  Parents were engaged with their kids, they helped complete displays, made costumes, etc.  Then they SHOWED UP to see their kids.  I've also been known to hold impromptu meetings at these events- getting important paperwork signed, etc.

Tip 5- Use the children to your advantage! I'm talking pure bribery here.  "If you bring this back signed, you get XYZ!"  For me, it's usually PawBucks (they use them at the school store).  You can also use candy, points or small trinkets.

Here's a Bonus Tip- DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT!
I keep track of notes that go home, phones calls that are made, etc. When I send a newsletter home, I put the date on it and put it in my communication notebook.  With this documentation, I can say things like "I'm so sorry you didn't know!  I sent a newsletter on Thursday and wrote a note in the planner on Friday.  I also sent out a Dojo reminder to check the planners on Friday.  I tried to call on Wednesday but no one returned my call.  Is there a better way to reach you?"  Documentation helps cover yourself too.  I had a parent complain to the principal one time that all I ever said was negative things about her child-- but I had documentation of her behavior notes- positive and negative- and attempted phone calls home.

I keep a Parent Communication Notebook with copies of each students information sheet and communication log.  In the back, I keep a copy of all newsletters that go home as well.  If you need a communication log, you can download this free one by signing up for my newsletter!

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