The Survival Series - Keep In Touch! September 22 2009
I was a teacher before I was a parent. Now that I have to dig to the bottom of my child’s backpack, I value the email newsletters my son’s teacher sends out on a regular basis. I’m more likely to get important information in a timely manner, and I can reply with comments or questions immediately, which keeps me from having yet one more thing to remember to do.
And as a teacher, I could see how this type of communication could be incredibly convenient, but possibly overwhelming considering all that teachers already need to do. Focus on making these updates part of your routine, like a hardcopy newsletter you used to send home. Also, choose one of the following easy-to-use methods:
Collect parents’ email addresses and compose a list, sending out a simple email update each week to the entire group. If there's a last-minute need or announcement, no need to type, print and distribute a hand-out, wondering how many will actually make it into the hands of a parent. Simply compose an email about your need and send it to the group of parents!
If you have a situation involving students that came up during recess, you no longer have to wait out the day in order to call the parents involved. Since you already have email addresses handy, write a quick note to the parent you need to talk with and the specific time you can speak with them by phone. This will give parents a heads-up too, and less back-and-forth phone tag!
Each year, I have one or two students who required a little extra communication with parents. Email allows me to be quick and consistent. If there's a question about homework, my students know I'm a short email away from discussing the situation with a parent. Over the years, many of these students' behavior plans involved daily feedback concerning how they did each day. A quick note about the good and the bad saved time and paper, especially since parents could answer me right away as opposed to sending home a piece of paper each day that needed to be signed.
If your school already has a website, there’s a good chance that there’s a website page about your classroom ready for you to update. If you teach older kids (who tend to be more web-savvy anyway), have one or two trustworthy students help you take care of it. Maintain your webpage by giving a weekly overview of what’s happening in your classroom. If you like newsletters, create one and save it as a PDF, then upload it to your site; parents could then download a copy to read all about what's going on with your classroom.
Then send links to your classroom webpage to your group of parent email addresses, advising them to check it often, or at a specific time each week. An email each Friday reminding them to check the website to read your newsletter would save time and paper, and keep families informed!
Set Up a Blog
Everyone including my cat has a Blog, so it wouldn't be too unusual for you to maintain one about classroom news. This is very easy to do - easier than a website, I think - especially if you use Blogger or Wordpress. Parents can subscribe by email or RSS feed, with updates going directly to them through these avenues (still, a quick email telling them to take a look at a new entry couldn't hurt). Parents and families can also leave comments or reply to your blog posts, which keep lines of communication open.
There are still some parents who are uncomfortable with using email or web-based communication. A simple solution is to make a hard copy of your weekly blog post or web update for those families, keeping them in the loop with what’s happening in your classroom. Starting with the very first day of school, announce how you will use one of the above methods to communicate regularly with families and let them know how they can keep in touch!