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Both of my daughters are in school.  One attends a Christian preschool and the other attends public school.  Being on the “other side” of the school gig has opened my eyes to many, many things that I would have never been able to predict.  However, the number one thing I’ve realized is how essential communication is.

My youngest daughter brings home a sticker on her chart everyday.  The sticker is an indicator of her behavior for the day.  This is a sweet system.  By taking three minutes each day, the teacher is able to communicate with every single parent every single day.  As parents, it enables my husband and me to know how she is behaving in school.  It also allows us to see patterns and to know immediately if her behavior is causing problems.  This opens the lines of communication between our daughter and us.  I’m hoping to convince her kindergarten teacher to use this system next year, at least at the beginning of the year. 

Something that I’ve noticed is that as students progress through school, communication with parents decreases.  I know all of the reasons and excuses for this . . . I invented many of them!  However, now that I have children of my own in school, I realize the importance of maintaining contact with parents.  It’s frustrating to not knowing what’s happening during school.  It’s even more frustrating to have a teacher say, “For awhile now, your child has been doing . . . ” 

Here are a few tips for easy ways to open lines of communication:

One Set up a parent email list — no matter what level you teach.  As a middle school teacher, I sent out LA News bi-monthly.  Parents appreciated knowing about upcoming due dates, units of study, and needed items for our classroom.  I was always amazed at the number of responses I would get in return and then I would be able to follow up with specific information to individual parents.  What ease to have parent contacts in my email book.

Two Have students self-address two postcards at the start of the year.  Put the postcards in a file box (think recipe box).  Each week pull a certain number of postcards to send during the week.  This doesn’t take very long and your students will love to get happy mail.  (When I was in the classroom, I’d send 150+ postcards in a year!)

ThreeCall home.  Here’s my favorite tip when needing to make a phone call.  Choose two students who have been doing well in class.  (It’s even better if these two students wouldn’t be used to having a teacher call home for a positive reason.)  Call a parent of a student who is doing well and compliment the student.  The phone call usually takes less than two minutes because the parent is stunned that a teacher is calling for a positive reason (really, what does this say about parent phone calls?).  Then make the call you “need” to make.  Finally, make a second positive student phone call.  Think of these as warm-up and cool-down calls.  The best part is you leave with a smile on your face and a light heart because of the positive calls. 

These are simple things that take little time, yet make a huge difference.  Even though the school year is winding down, let’s make it a goal to up the level of parent communication in our classrooms.   Will you join me?

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

6 thoughts on “communicate! Leave a comment

  1. Ruth,
    This is soooo true. One of my sons has a hard time with school kinds of learning. The classes where he does the best are classes where the teacher communicates with parents, via calendars, or email, or rubrics, or *** . And one of his teachers called me this year to tell me that he was such a “nice young man.” Her call made me cry. Carol


  2. Wow, that postcard idea is awesome! I agree with what Deb said about starting a blog/website—I’ll definitely be making that a key part of my communication next year.

    Great ideas!


  3. The only teacher phone calls we received during the last 13 years was from the 8th grade science teacher who told us positives. It was for each child (2 years apart). We still remember the teacher and so do our children who are now graduating from HS. I wrote a letter of recommendation for her (she did not ask). I also wrote a thank you note to the BOE re: her. She was stunned to be thanked for doing her job.


  4. This year I used a blog as an experiment in parent communication and it has been so effective! On the first day of school, I sent home a permission form to publish pictures of students in the classroom and on trips. The blog acts as a newsletter, but also invites parents into my practice as a teacher. It is a place that I try hard to practice what I preach as a writer. Every Monday I send out an email with a link to the blog. The email is key, because parents don’t have to look for my address when they want to get in touch with me during the week, and they don’t have to look for the blog address when they want to check on homework or upcoming dates. The best part has been the community that has been built through comments. I know my parents have a good sense of who I am in the classroom and what their children are learning. How did I learn to do a blog? It stared right here. Thanks Ruth and Stacey!


  5. Parent engagement is so important. It’s something we pride ourselves on in my school, but not something I write about a lot. Maybe I should…

    Thanks for these great tips. I, too, love the recipe box idea!


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