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Adult SEL, Fly Five Curriculum, School to Home

Establishing What’s Important: Parent-Teacher Communication Strategies

09/19/2022
Establishing What’s Important: Parent-Teacher Communication Strategies


At the beginning of the school year, consider how parent-teacher partnerships thrive on clear communication, mutual respect, and trust. Educators can use this blog as a resource for how to establish strong parent-teacher communication strategies and how to facilitate different kinds of classroom communication preferences.


There are many kinds of communication strategies to choose from for your unique school community. In order to better address how you will communicate with parents best, consider these questions in order to guide you in getting to know your specific parent community better (Cofie, 2021):

Establishing What’s Important: Parent-Teacher Communication Strategies
  • What are parents’ communication preferences? (Email? Text? WhatsApp? Phone call? Home visit?)
  • Is there more availability during the day or in the evening?
  • What languages are spoken at home?
  • What are some of the family traditions?
  • What talents and experiences are parents willing to share?
    • Encouraging parents to share their talents and experiences with their child’s class will honor their backgrounds and knowledge while helping them to feel more comfortable and welcomed within the classroom community.

All of these questions will help strengthen teacher-parent communication and show that there is a place for all families in your school community. Touching on talents, experiences, and family traditions that parents may be willing to share honors the experiences of the parent community, makes them feel more comfortable, and increases feelings of belonging and significance.

Establishing What’s Important: Parent-Teacher Communication Strategies

At the beginning of the school year, consider these three strategies for facilitating different kinds of classroom communication preferences:

  • Offer flexibility. Meeting parents where they are means that we are providing them with options and opportunities to meet their preferences and needs. Keep in mind that everyone will have a different comfort level when it comes to meetings and conferences, and therefore, multiple options should be offered: in-person, virtual, or even at students’ homes. Opening up the conversation and being okay with the parents’ choice is key. For example, teachers can offer parents the opportunity to engage face-to-face through conferences, monthly morning coffee chats, workshops, and more.
  • Reach out with positive feedback. Consider not only reaching out when you need to, but also making a positive phone call when you notice something encouraging happening with their child (Responsive Classroom, 2009). You don't have to wait for a large change to occur; any observation, big or small, is worth reaching out about in an effort to establish trust and open lines of communication. For example, if at the beginning of the year a student was consistently disruptive and unable to focus during quiet reading time but now, a few months later, they are able to sit quietly and enjoy reading, let parents know of this change. When you start to intentionally look for progress, accomplishments, and growth in your students, you will also notice their unique personalities, strengths, and the little things that make them who they are.
  • Include student voices. Try making podcasts, videos, or newspapers that share classroom information in a fun and unique way and allow students to get involved in the creation. Because of the personalized nature of these fun, creative forms of communication, parents are more likely to respond positively. Additionally, letting your students take some responsibility for this effort will teach them valuable skills and empower them as members of the classroom community. This may also take some of the pressure off of you to do all of the creating and communicating and serve as a valuable reminder that you are not alone.
Establishing What’s Important: Parent-Teacher Communication Strategies

Quick Tips for First Meetings and Beyond

It is also important to recognize how to interact and communicate with families while remaining respectful, inclusive, and accepting of all preferences. Small, thoughtful gestures can go a long way to increase confidence in teacher-parent partnerships both in first encounters and subsequent meetings between educators and students and their families. Consider incorporating the following strategies into your teaching practices and classroom routines to establish trust and promote family involvement:

  • Get curious about body language. When parents are entering the classroom with their child for the first time, it can be an overwhelming situation—for everyone involved! See if you can challenge yourself to notice how you interact with parents and how their body language or other nonverbal cues may shape your interaction. Similarly, as the school year progresses, you may run into parents—from both current and previous years—in the hallway, at the office, or in the parking lot. Remember to be aware of how important body language is to the way that we communicate with one another and that smiling and saying hello can help send the message that all parents are welcome. Additionally, making eye contact, keeping your arms uncrossed, and noticing your tone of voice can go a long way.
  • Use names when you can. Taking the time to remember parents' names fosters additional feelings of belonging and significance. It shows that you care about who they are as a person, as our identities are strongly tied to our names. Whenever possible, follow up with parents on what they would like to be called as well as the correct pronunciation of first and last names. Of course, we’re only human, and for some of us remembering names is a strong suit, while for others it is an area of growth. Show that you’re trying by asking for a gentle reminder: “I’m still working on remembering names. Please remind me of your name again.” Afterward, repeat their name back to them, not only for memorization purposes, but to show that you are present and listening. This small detail shows respect and builds meaningful connections.
  • Find similarities in cultural differences. Oftentimes, different people will approach greetings based on their own specific norms, cultural preferences, or religious customs. For example, not everyone will prefer a handshake, but instead may bow or choose to kiss on the cheek. Take some time to learn about the unique cultural backgrounds that make up your classroom and consider any similarities you notice within your own beliefs, rituals, and celebrations. When we seek out experiences that are different from our own, it builds empathy and helps us be more understanding, empathetic leaders. In order to be respectful and mindful of these differences, a simple smile and wave will acknowledge parents while respecting all preferences.

In the end, finding modes of communication that work best for your unique classroom community is key. Whether it’s through in-person meetings, weekly newsletters, or classroom podcasts, strengthening classroom partnerships will impact student success in the year ahead and make pivotal classroom-to-home connections come easier.

References
Cofie, J. (2021). Strengthening the parent-teacher partnership. Center for Responsive Schools, Inc.

Responsive Classroom. (2009, April 1). Keeping in touch with families all year long. https://www.responsiveclassroom.org/keeping-in-touch-with-families-all-year-long/

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