The Communication Key

How keeping families in the loop can unlock success for your students

Good communication is one of the most important elements of education.  A teacher needs to be able to communicate information effectively to students, of course, but almost equally important is the need for teachers to communicate well with parents.

Academics at Stake

The involvement of parents and caretakers is essential at any grade level.  Letting the folks at home know how a student is performing is a huge piece of guaranteeing that child’s success.

Involving all parents, including non-native English speakers, is an important part of running a successful classroom.

From letter sounds in kindergarten to AP test scores in high school, it’s important for everyone to be informed when it comes to academic success.  When parents don’t know what their student is struggling with, they may be unable to help until it’s too late.

Likewise, parents deserve to hear about their child’s successes in school, too.  It’s only logical to share and celebrate a student’s achievements with their family.  Many times, though, parents aren’t told when their child gets a great grade, helps out a classmate, or takes a risk to share their work.  Telling parents about their student’s victories, no matter how small, can build confidence and foster a virtuous cycle for that child.

Accountable Behavior

Family involvement is a huge part of keeping student behavior on track in the classroom as well.  Students at all ages thrive on consistency, so knowing that parents and teachers are on the same page helps motivate them to make good choices.  

Home involvement only strengthens logical consequences like these in the classroom.

When a child learns that his teacher and his parents have the same high expectations, they are much more likely to meet them.  On the other hand, when they realize that negative choices at school may carry consequences at home, the lesson of what not to do is doubly reinforced.  This connection is often the foundation for good behavior. Otherwise, it’s easy for school to become a place that’s unrelated to students’ home lives in the outside world.

Staying Informed

Parents also have the right to know what their child is learning in the classroom.  Strategies, content, and teaching methods have evolved a great deal since many of these caretakers were in school themselves.  It’s important to let them know how and what their child is studying.

Some parents have even suggested that they, not the educators, should also decide what’s in the curriculum.  While this has sparked controversy, it’s safe to say that at the very least, everyone deserves to know what’s on the agenda.

Making It Happen

Clearly, good home and school communication is important.  It helps keep students accountable for the behavior and schoolwork, and it keeps families aware of how best to support their child.

Communication can feel overwhelming and time-consuming, though, even to elementary school teachers with 25 students… to say nothing of their middle and high-school counterparts who might see 150 kids throughout the week.  

How should teachers tackle this key piece of their work?

An Important Investment

The first step to ensuring good communication is to see it as an investment.  Forming strong bonds with the people who take care of your students is like putting money in the bank.  If an academic, behavior, or even bullying issue comes up, it will be far easier to handle when you’ve built a rapport with the folks at home.

Sites like Teachers Pay Teachers even offer templates to make your writing process a breeze.

Investing in good communication does require time and effort, but even small steps can reap huge benefits.  At the beginning of the school year, for example, an easy way to get started is by sending home a letter of introduction to the parents.

Your letter doesn’t have to be long or serious; even just a few lines about your vision for the year is enough to get the ball rolling.  Letting parents know early on that you expect to be in touch with them sets the tone for the rest of your time together.

Have a Conversation

Throughout the first month of school, I also find it helps to talk to every parent on the phone.  Actually having a conversation has a whole different value than written or texted communication.  This may seem like a daunting task, but breaking it down into two or three calls a day helps keep it manageable.

These calls don’t have to be long – the goal is just to touch base, mention a few positive things you’ve noticed about the student, and listen to any questions or concerns the parent may have.  Everyone enjoys hearing good things about their child, and when the parent knows you’re willing to listen, they’ll feel more comfortable sharing and accepting information from you.

Keep Them in the Know

Once those initial relationships are formed, communication gets a lot easier.  There are numerous apps available that make keeping track of student progress fairly simple.  Class Dojo is one of the most popular; teachers can reward their class, as well as individual students, for all kinds of milestones, and parents can check every evening to see how the day went.

Class Dojo is a fun and easy way to keep communication open.

Remind is another popular communication app; it’s an easy way to make announcements and relay information (study guides, grades, or flyers about upcoming events) to every family on your roster.  Parents can also reply back to let you know of any issues or questions they have.

If you’re not a fan of the high-tech route, a weekly note home also works wonders for younger kids.  For elementary schoolers, I send home a “Green Sheet” each week.  There’s a space for behavior, homework completion, and grades for each day.  At a glance, parents can check on how their child acted, how they’re achieving academically, and how well they’re keeping up with assignments.

Bringing back the signed “Green Sheet” is the student’s ticket to recess, and once they realize you mean business, it becomes easy to collect.  Signed tests, homework, reading logs, and study guides can also be checked to make sure families are staying on top of what their students are learning for the week.

Open the Doors

Involving parents in school activities is also a great way to keep communication – and motivation – high.  Whether it’s chaperoning a field trip, assisting with a class project, supervising a game or dance, or just coming up to eat lunch with their student, families should feel welcome in the school setting.

This can be difficult with COVID restrictions, and it may not be feasible for parents who work long hours both during and after the school day.  Providing options, though, at least lets parents know you appreciate their presence and see them as important stakeholders in their child’s education.

Seeing their parents at school can also help kids visualize the fact that the adults in their lives are on the same team, and want them to succeed.

Don’t Give Up

Staying in touch with every student’s family may not always be possible, but it’s important to keep trying.  We should never stop taking action to keep families involved, even if they may be unreachable from time to time.

After all, whether it’s by a phone call, an app, a paper, or a face-to-face interaction, when we involve families, we’re doing what’s best for our students… and that’s always worth the effort.  

Let us know your favorite way to keep in touch with families in the comments.  Families, what’s your favorite way to communicate with teachers?  We’d love to hear from you!

girl in old fashioned dress standing in library holding books



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