Successful Communication Between Home and School

As a high school principal, one of the things I dislike to hear from parents is when they tell me that they don’t know what their child is doing in the classroom. While we have a very sophisticated communication plan for school-wide news and announcements, we fall short as a school in a systematic common approach to how we handle classroom-level communication between teachers and parents. In the new year, it is a personal goal of mine to work with my staff to improve in this area.

As a parent myself, I look forward to getting an email from my son Liam’s first grade teacher every Friday afternoon with an update on what Liam and his classmates have been working on all week. Despite the continued efforts of my wife Erica and I to extract this information from Liam over dinner each night, the email serves as a way to supplement and enhance our connection with Liam, so we can support his learning at home and play an active role in his education all year long. My task is to try to promote that same experience for the parents in my school.

According to a 2015 article by Linda Flanagan of Mind/Shift, the need for an improvement in communication between teachers and parents is great. Flanagan writes, “In a 2012 study conducted by the National Household Education Surveys Program, 59 percent of parents with children in public school reported having never received a phone call from a teacher.” What is worse is that of those who had been contacted, only 49% felt “very satisfied” with the communication they received. When surveyed, teachers often identify several barriers to communication including a lack of time to dedicate to communication, no clear expectations from the school on what effective communication should look like, and/or an inaccurate or out-dated data base of parent contact information provided by school. These are all barriers that can be easily overcome by schools over time. Flanagan writes, “to make outreach more attractive to teachers, schools need to make communication central to the teachers’ work, not just an add-on to their growing list of responsibilities. In practice, that means making time during the school day for teachers to contact parents. As well, teachers need guidance on the content of those messages and how to say them. And what works for one school won’t work for all, Kraft cautions.”

To begin to tackle the job of providing teachers with guidance on the content of their communication, Teach Thought recently posted an article with 10 Messages Every Teacher Should Send. The article, written by the website Class Tag, stressed that “Effective communication with families can be a game-changer for parent involvement, with a positive ripple effect on long-term relationships and community. With this 10 key messages you will have an inventory of ideas at your fingertips that you can start implementing right away and come back to it from time to time.”

Here is what they came up with:

  1. Your child has successes that we can share
  2. Your child has ‘lightbulb’ moments you should know about
  3. Your child went somewhere. Ask them about it
  4. You can help your child learn by…
  5. Here are some questions to ask your child…
  6. Thank you
  7. Your child is heard in my classroom
  8. I know home life is can be busy
  9. I’ll work with you. Here’s how

Their list is powerful for many reasons, and can easily be adapted by teachers to fit any classroom from the early grades through high school. These messages can and should be delivered throughout the year, be it through formal written communication vehicles such as email newsletters, blogs,  and backpack flyers to phone conversations, text message alerts, social media posts, and of course, face to face communication.

On their website, Class Tag showcases the strategies of teachers who are high effective at communication. Readers can explore this site for all sorts of tips, suggestions, and pitfalls to avoid. There are strategies to meet every unique classroom situation in every kind of school. 

This article was written originally for MultiBriefs Education.


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