Connecting to Parents and Their Networks

7.1 Communicating with Families – Throughout this year I have had many opportunities to work with and meet students and their families both in the classroom and outside of it. Teacher-family communication is a crucial part of creating a consistent, engaging, and caring environment that students can flourish and find success in. That communication can take many forms such as e-mail updates, parent volunteering, and also attending PTSA events. From my experience interacting with students and their families is that the most successful communication is both flexible and positive.

In my classroom the majority of parents prefer to use e-mail as their main form of communication. According to an article by Thompson, Mazer & Grady (2015), parents have shown a, “…preference for frequent e-mail communication as well as for emerging modes of parent-teacher communication such as text messaging and social media” (p. 187). Parents tend to prefer these types of communication with teachers because they are quick and convenient, and because they allow parents the time to reflect before responding (Thompson, Mazer & Grady, 2015). Currently I use e-mail to send out weekly newsletters to parents along with reminders of upcoming events at school. These newsletters summarize learning for the week and include announcements for events that may require parent action as well as upcoming student work due dates to be aware of.  Parents reply to these e-mails, or send their own, to inform me of appointments, vacations, emergencies, or other concerns they may have about their child. There are some families that prefer phone calls and written notes, which would be ideal to know at the beginning of the year when collecting information from parents during curriculum night or the school open house. Another teacher and I put together a packet of parent-involvement documents that can be modified and adjusted to collect information from families as well as examples of communication forms to them.

Friday Newsletter
Sample Friday Newsletter sent via e-mail

Another way I have interacted with parents is through volunteering. Whether they were homework checkers, room parents, art helpers, or chaperones I have been able to build relationships with parents as they spend time in classroom or connected to our classroom activities. With parents that volunteer I noticed that there are some already established friendships between many of the parents either through having students in the same class, clubs, or school events. This parent community serves as another support system for students which I can connect to. For example, some parents have asked if they may initial homework for students that they are caring for while parents are out of town or at work. Understanding that some families rely other caretakers in their networks whether it may be a sibling, grandparent, or friend’s mom or dad was an important realization for me. As I look towards having my own classroom I want to ensure that I am attentive to the different networks. What are some ways I can invite those caretakers and supporters to be part of student’s academic lives so that students can be successful?

One possible way that I would like to explore is through providing families and communities with information on how they can assist students with their learning at home. This can be incorporated in my weekly e-mails as sort of a ‘strategy for the week’ for parents to try with students and can be geared towards different units of study we are covering in math, English language arts, reading, and science. These strategies can also be compiled and shared a parent-teacher conferences so that each family has a worksheet of different ways they, or other caretakers, can help their student develop successful study habits that transfer learning from home to the classroom.

References:

Thompson, B. C., Mazer, J. P, & Grady, E. F. (2015). The changing nature of parent-teacher communication: mode selection in the smartphone era. Communication Education, 64(2), 187-207.

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