This is my eleventh year teaching, and for all 11 years, I’ve really believed in the home/school connection. I think that students benefit more when we work together. Making this home/school connection work though has taken time.
When I started teaching, I communicated to parents. I sent out newsletters. I wrote notes in agendas. I even emailed out classroom updates. I was the one doing all of the talking though. I never discouraged parents from replying, but I also didn’t invite them to reply. Parents knew what was happening in the classroom, and in my mind, this was communicating with parents.
My impression has changed over the years though. I don’t want to be the one doing all of the “talking” anymore. I want parents to share what they think. I want them to feel like they have a voice in the classroom, and I want students to know that we’re all working together here. Even my classroom website has changed. I’ve added a Questions and Comments link through Chatango. Now we can talk in an open forum, as well as in a closed one through email exchanges and phone conversations.
Talking with Aaron Puley (@bloggucation) has also changed the way that I communicate with parents. Aaron is our Board’s Consultant of Parent and Student Engagement. He’s helped me see things through an equity lens. Yes, I’m fortunate. All of the parents that I work with have email and web access, but this doesn’t mean that they prefer online communication. That’s why I phone parents regularly too. I try to call all of the parents in my class every couple of weeks. Usually I phone with some information to share, but I also answer questions, discuss what’s happening in the classroom, and encourage parents to share their thoughts and ideas as well. It only takes a couple of hours to make these phone calls, but the connections that I’ve formed with parents are priceless!
Blogging has also been a great way to communicate with parents. More and more parents are commenting on student blog posts, and even commenting on my professional blog posts. Blogging has been a great way to open up the classroom walls and let parents see what the students are doing in class each day. They hear and see our video recordings. They read my reflections, and my students’ reflections too. They know what we’re working on in class, and they know how I’m presenting this material to students as well. They can follow-up with what’s happening in the classroom with what they do at home, and reviewing this content, really helps the students understand it well.
Twitter has also helped me communicate with parents. In the past couple of years, I’ve had some parents that love to tweet. They share what their children are doing at home through Twitter. They ask questions through Twitter. They even reply to my tweets. Twitter’s given us another way to share.
It really is all about choice. Let parents choose how they want to communicate. In my experience, giving parents choices, but also letting them know that you want to communicate with them, has made a tremendous difference. In the Faculty of Education, a professor told me that, “Parents give us the best that they have.” We need to work together to do what’s best for each of their “bests” that make up our classroom. So how do you communicate with parents? Why do you choose the methods that you do? I’d love to hear your thoughts!