10 Tips to Improve Teacher and Parent Communication
Good two-way communication between families and schools is necessary for your students' success. Not surprisingly, research shows that the more communication parents and teachers share about a student, the better equipped both will be to help that student achieve success.
But excellent communication between parents and teachers doesn't only benefit students. When teachers and parents communicate regularly, it can also help teachers be more effective in their jobs. And when teachers thrive in the classroom, they feel encouraged and motivated to continue — which, in turn, benefits students and makes parents happy. It's a rewarding cycle that starts because parents and teachers choose to put time and effort into communicating.
Importance of Parent-Teacher Communication
Teacher and parent communication happens when one party chooses to engage with the other to discuss a child's academic and social progress. Parents and teachers play a critical role in a child's development. Parents are a child's first teachers. From the day a child is born, a parent's job is to show them how to navigate the world. No, you probably weren't teaching calculus and geography to a 2-year-old, but a parent is responsible for teaching children how to walk, talk, play, cooperate and otherwise engage with others.
Once a child gets old enough to attend school, a parent's role may change, but it doesn't stop! Because they've been their child's teacher since day one, a parent can provide valuable insight to teachers who haven't spent as much time with their child. Parents can play a crucial role in helping teachers understand how a child thinks, what their strengths are and where they may encounter roadblocks. That's why it's impossible to overstate the importance of parent-teacher communication.
When children start school, parents can also use their valuable knowledge to partner with teachers and reinforce classroom concepts. For example, if a child struggles with sharing at school, parents can work with them at home. Or, if a child isn't finishing their schoolwork, parents can provide guidance and accountability toward completing assignments at home or helping children learn material they're having a hard time with.
When parents and teachers communicate effectively, here are some of the results.
1. Mutual Respect
Consistent, open communication usually results in a high level of respect between a teacher and the parents. They appreciate each other's roles in a child's life and commit to collaborating to help them grow. When children see this level of trust between their parent and teacher, they can also recognize their teacher has their best interests in mind. In turn, students become more invested in their classroom goals and excited to share their successes with their teachers and parents.
2. Bigger Successes
Constant communication helps parents and teachers become more invested in the things that matter most to their children. Parents and teachers should celebrate students' successes in learning challenging material or overcoming obstacles. When adults encourage children, they can take more pride in their accomplishments. And, when children receive frequent praise at home and school, it reinforces their confidence in their abilities moving forward.
3. Efficiency in Problem Solving
Even with the most well-behaved, intelligent children, a conflict is sure to arise at some point during the school year. When parents and teachers have already established a rapport with one another, it's easier to send an email or pick up the phone and quickly get to the bottom of the issue. Parents and teachers who are already in the habit of communicating know how to talk to each other about what's going on with the child. When problems arise, they can address the issue and find a solution.
10 Tips to Improve Parent-Teacher Communication
Though parent-teacher communication requires two willing parties — the teacher and at least one parent — the teacher often sets the tone. The beginning of the school year is a critical time to define expectations and establish communication patterns so parents become comfortable reaching out on various topics.
Teachers can do a few vital things to improve their communication with parents and encourage parents to become more engaged in their child's education.
1. Have a Plan
Communication between parents and teachers doesn't usually happen spontaneously. Starting from the first day of school, let parents know what your intentions are. Make them aware you would like to work with them to further their child's development. Whatever your goals are, keep them in mind when designing your plan.
What are your intentions? Before a student sets foot in your classroom, decide how to communicate with parents. Perhaps this takes the form of a weekly email updating parents on what their children are learning. Maybe you make it your goal to call two parents every week to update them on their child's progress. If you already have dates for parent-teacher conferences, make those known as well. By having a plan and presenting it to parents, you give them expectations and opportunities to reciprocate with you.
Once you have a plan in place, stick to it! Sure, classroom life gets busy, but taking a few minutes to communicate with parents can help you teach more effectively. And building a relationship with parents means you are more likely to find willing volunteers when you need a few extra pairs of hands.
2. Communicate About the Entire Classroom
Remind parents you are responsible for more than just their child. Help them understand you may need to make a decision that is best for the whole group. Here's where a weekly email or newsletter comes in handy. When you reinforce the idea that you're guiding an entire class of children, it helps them have patience when things don't go according to plan.
3. Learn Their Names
This tip can be a little bit tricky because you don't see each parent daily. But when teachers make a point to learn and address parents by their names, it shows a level of familiarity that can improve communication. After all, when you have to call a parent about a problem at school, the conversation will be less tense if you can start with "Hi, Sue!" or "How are you today, Dave?" Make a point to learn the parents’ names and greet them companionably. Unless you're sending home a form letter from the school, avoid addressing notes with "To the parents of."
4. Invite Parents to Share and Listen to What They Say
No one knows more about a student than the parent who is raising them. And, of course, parents love to talk about their children! Use this to your advantage. In the right setting, such as a conference or after-school phone call, encourage them to tell you about their child, especially if you've noticed any warning signs of social or emotional problems that may be impacting their schoolwork.
Take time to hone your listening skills and ask plenty of questions. Your goal isn't letting parents chatter away while you let your mind wander to other topics. It's to actively learn more about the child you're teaching and identify ways to reach them more effectively.
5. Lead With the Good News
Even if you have difficult news to share, take a few minutes to start an email or conversation with something affirming or upbeat. This positivity doesn't only ease the sting of bad news, but it also helps parents process what you have to say. Demonstrate that you, as a teacher, strive to find the good in every child. If you have something especially troubling to discuss, this approach can also help diffuse tempers and prevent parents from becoming defensive about their child.
6. Ask Questions About Their Child
Every parent wants to feel confident their child is more than a name on a teacher's attendance sheet or a grade in their book. When teachers demonstrate an interest in knowing more about their students, it proves to parents that you genuinely care for their child.
7. Let Parents Know How They Can Help
Most times, parents are willing to help but do not know how to. Give parents different options for getting involved – some parents may not have time to come to school to volunteer, but still want to take an active role in their child's school.
8. Tell the Parents What Their Child Is Studying
Often, students may not share what is going on at school with their parents, or they may not accurately communicate what they're learning. Send home information on what the class is studying or working on. Parents who feel involved will be more engaged, and they will also help reinforce some of the concepts you're learning at home.
9. Thank Parents
Make sure to show parents your appreciation. Recognize what they do to help your class and how it's impacting students. Though they should want to take an active role in their child's education, it is not a requirement, so be grateful to the parents who do this well. Besides encouraging them and reinforcing their involvement, it can also set an example for other parents to follow.
10. Don't Assume You Know a Family Because You Know Their Child
Though many seasoned teachers will tell you they know a lot about a child's home life based on their behavior at school, don't ever assume you know what's going on at home. Be proactive in learning about your students' family situations. Do they come from a single-parent household? Are their parents fluent English speakers, or will they require a translator to communicate more effectively?
It's also essential to keep tabs on a child's home life throughout the year. Checking in with children and their parents can alert you if a divorce happens halfway through the year or the family experiences a hardship, such as a financial loss or the death of a grandparent. When handled appropriately, this isn't being nosy. And it can help you be a better, more compassionate teacher to your students.
Parent-Teacher Conference Tips
Parent-teacher conferences are one crucial way of connecting parents and teachers to talk about a child. While they aren't the only method of communication, they matter because they provide the chance to meet face to face. In this setting, parents and teachers can learn a lot about each other and build a rapport that will benefit students throughout the school year.
Conferences can be nerve-wracking for teachers and parents alike, especially if you've ever been part of one that hasn't gone well. Check out these parent-teacher meeting tips for some ideas on how to plan and execute a successful parent-teacher conference.
When you schedule the conference, establish the meeting's purpose. Is it to review a report card, talk about an academic problem or address behavioral issues? Knowing ahead of time what you'll be discussing can help parents prepare. Gather any materials you'll need to reference, such as district policies, standards of learning or recent assignments that might be problematic. Also, brainstorm a list of questions and possible solutions you can present once you've described the problem.
Meeting to address a student's positive progress is far less stressful, but it's still essential to go in with a game plan. Bring examples of how they're thriving, suggestions for continued improvement and questions designed to get to know the student's family better.
2. Create a Welcoming Environment
When possible, meet in the classroom, so parents can see student artwork and assignments around the room. Most parents love seeing the books their child is reading and the science projects they're working on. Allow them the freedom to explore and ask a few questions before diving into the topic at hand. If you can't meet in person, be sure to begin a phone call or video conference inquiring about the student's family and how things are going for them. There's no need to ask pointed or personal questions about their home life. A simple "How's everything with your family?" can be an excellent conversational prompt.
3. The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Always start a conference with something positive about the student. Parents are proud of their children, and they want to hear their child is an advanced reader, kind friend or eager learner. This tip is especially relevant when planning a conference to discuss problematic behavior or academic struggles. Describing their child's strengths encourages parents to remain more open and engaged in finding positive solutions to the areas where their child is struggling.
4. Establish Action Steps and a Follow-Up Plan
If a conference's purpose was to discuss an academic or social problem, invite the parent to help you create a plan for confronting and overcoming their child's behavior or challenge. Decide what steps to take and who will be responsible for handling them. Does a parent need to schedule testing? Does the school need to bring in a specialist? Be sure to clearly state these action steps and the person responsible for completing them. Then, establish how you will follow up. Perhaps that's an email next week, a phone call to confirm or even another conference. But be transparent about what needs to happen and put a timeline on getting it done.
How Planners Can Help Improve Parent-Teacher Communication
Paper planners can help students remember their homework and perform better in school. But they can also improve communication between parents and teachers. Teachers can write assignments, deadlines or notes in planners, then send them home for parents to see and respond to appropriately. At Success by Design, our STEM planners are only one option for helping your students achieve their academic potential. Browse our selection of these and other planners today.
- SBD, Inc.