Build communication, relationships with parents now to ease concerns about fall

Dive Brief:

  • Communicating with parents when school starts will reap rewards throughout the year, veteran middle and high school teacher Crystal Frommert writes for Edutopia. Frommert developed habits and routines to start the year off positively, which include sending a personalized note to each family.
  • Her letters mention at least one positive comment about the student, along with information on how and when parents can connect with her. She urges teachers to continue to send the positive notes home to parents when the student does something impressive or kind.
  • When communicating with parents about problems, it’s OK to send a quick email for minor issues, she writes. However, it’s best to request a phone call for more complicated issues, and while teachers should understand that 10% of parents may be difficult to deal with, she suggests 90% will be respectful.

Dive Insight:

This year, parents will have a new list of worries educators will need to address due to the coronavirus pandemic. Issues with distance learning and academics will likely be near the top.

A recent survey of 3,600 parents and guardians found most worried about their children’s lack of interpersonal connections during spring school closures. Another poll of parents published in April shows regular contact from the school is important, with 55% of parents reporting they had been contacted by their child’s teacher and 30% responding they hadn’t been contacted by anyone at the school.

Parents are also apt to question how teachers plan to make up the months of curriculum lost in spring when schools shifted to distance learning practically overnight. In an April 2020 poll, 65% of teachers favored starting the new year with the same curriculum that would have been used otherwise rather than revisiting concepts delivered remotely, extending the school year or giving students the chance to repeat the grade. Administrators, education advocates and policymakers, however, believe beginning the school year with concepts from spring would be the best way to address learning loss caused by closures.

When reaching out to parents early in the school year, educators should take into account that parental involvement is critical for student success. For those parents with students in distance learning, the task of helping guide their child’s education, often while also still working or looking for new work, can be overwhelming. When teachers request help from families, it’s important to remember to ask to participate rather than suggesting they need to be in charge. And even when learning is done remotely, educators should still reach out to parents to share concerns and compliments.

There are also apps teachers and parents can use to communicate, even when language barriers exists. Bloomz and Class Tag, for example, allow teachers to update parents on their student’s progress. Some of these tools can also help overcome language barriers. As of 2016, 9.6% of the total student population was classified as English learners, and 46% of teachers said they have had to talk to a parent through a student translator.

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