Here are some strategies for leaders to establish positive and productive communications with the parent community:
Issue shorter, more frequent communications: Don’t kick off the year with one long communication or wait until the end of the term to reach out with an extensive recap. Just as schools have moved to more frequent assessments of students, school communications should also be concise and frequent to keep parents in the loop on an ongoing basis.
Personalize: Personalization isn’t just for students. Parents expect it, too, and new technology tools can help parents customize how they’re connected to their children’s schools. This is especially important since not all parents can come into school at designated times.
Set the tone: Encourage teachers to share a bit of information about themselves at the start of the year, to set the tone for an open exchange with students’ parents and caregivers. They should develop and communicate a process for regular, ongoing communication throughout the year so parents know what to expect.
Build relationships: Teachers should focus on building relationships with parents to establish trust and foster those relationships throughout the year. Schools should also ensure that parents have opportunities to build rapport with their child’s support network, which can include a whole team of people, including learning specialists.
Invite parents to be partners: If educators don’t already know the school’s parent body, they should be sure to reach out and learn more about them. Teachers should invite parents to share information about their child’s strengths and weaknesses, what type of support system they have at home, and whether anything going on in the child’s life may impact classroom behavior. Information like this can be essential in equipping teachers to meet students’ needs.
Provide actionable information: Providing information for the sake of keeping parents up-to-date is recommended, but schools also need to make sure they are sharing information that parents can act on. This can include opportunities for parents to support or prepare their child for classroom assignments, or information about upcoming extracurricular activities and special events.
Empower parents to opt in: Design opportunities where parents can opt in (or out) of certain information or updates that are relevant, or irrelevant, to their child. Bombarding every parent with every update is just as ineffective as under-communicating, and parents will find it impossible to keep up, if they don’t tune out entirely.
Pick one tool: School leaders ought to conduct a communications audit to get a handle on how teachers are communicating with parents, and then provide clear direction on which tool to use, as well as some general communication protocols. Finding one platform that every educator can use and explaining why this is a priority will increase buy-in from all stakeholders.