A new school year not only brings a new classroom of young learners into our lives, but it also introduces us to their families. These families are the most powerful allies we can have when it comes to the academic success of our students. Yet as teachers, although we often know exactly how to reach the children in our classrooms, reaching out to their families can be more of a challenge. We all want to help them understand their child’s learning experiences, our teaching philosophies, and to talk about their child’s academic goals, but when we get into our school year routines, this communication sometimes takes a back seat to the day-to-day challenges of the classroom.
Here are three strategies that we can employ to help build positive, effective communication with our families, and give our students meaningful opportunities to practice their learning at home.
Strategy 1: Diversify Your Methods of Communication
As teachers, we know how to differentiate to reach the needs of each student, so why not apply this same tactic to communicating with families? Phone calls home or parent-teacher conferences are often the go-to methods of communicating with families about a child’s behavior or learning. Not every parent, however, is available to come in or is comfortable talking over the phone. Think about your message and try to match it to the best medium; want to share information about this week’s learning? Send out a newsletter. Want to talk specifically about an “aha” moment that a student had today? A nice note home helps that child feel successful all day long.
Strategy 2: Avoid Negativity Bias
As humans, our brains are wired to remember negative interactions long after they have happened. It takes up to 5 positive incidents to make up for a negative one and even then, it can be hard to recover. When communicating with families about behavior issues or academic setbacks, try to frame the message into something positive that you know about their child. For example, “Kai has such a creative mind and wonderful ideas! I know we’ll see more of his creativity come out in his writing as soon as we can help him focus. Here’s what I have been doing to support him during Writer’s Workshop, and I have some ideas for ways you can help him at home, too.” Speaking this way will help the family understand that you really have their child’s best interests at heart and that you are trying to work out the issue together.
Strategy 3: Remember, Communication is a Two-Way Street
Meetings with parents can often seem like you have a lot of information to deliver in a short amount of time. Even though it might be hard to do, try and make time to ask families questions about their day-to-day lives and to give them time to ask questions about the information you are sharing. Having more information about a family’s individual personality will help inform your relationship with their child. Taking time to answer questions will also let families know that you want to help them understand their children’s academic goals.
Laying the groundwork for communication with families early in the year and keeping that communication clear, consistent, and informative can help forge authentic partnerships that will last the entire school year. Families and teachers are each other’s best allies in helping children succeed, but only if each side works at making themselves understood.
Do you have any tips for communicating with parents? Lets us know what they are in the comments area below.
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