Communication with parents/guardians is not just a courtesy, it is a legal requirement as part of being a teacher. How you communicate with parents/guardians depends a lot on the content of the message.
Sometimes information is for all parents. This can go out in a newsletter format. Be careful about setting up unreasonable expectations of yourself around how often your newsletters come out. If you start the year sending them every Monday, parents will start to depend on seeing them on Mondays and you will preset that expectation that they will continue to come weekly, even on weeks when there isn’t a lot to share. Don’t make work for yourself, try to make your newsletters (should you choose to send them home) more sporadic so you don’t set yourself up with these expectations that you are sometimes unable to maintain.
If you choose to go digital, make sure you provide a non-digital option for families who do not have access. If you have families who do not speak English at home, you may want to speak with your admin about resources available to you in your board for translating some of the essential information to ensure all families are getting information equitably.
Deciding on a digital format can be challenging. Many teachers choose to set up a classroom website or blog, which allows them to post information. Be careful about allowing 2-way communication happen on the page without moderation. The last thing you want is your page to become a place for parents to start complaining or chatting about unrelated items. In my experience, using the Blog format (Blogger through Google was the format I used) is a great way to share resources and activities. There is a moderate option in setting so students and parents can comment but they come to you first and you can decide if they get posted. Sometimes a comment might not need to be posted (i.e., “can you please call me tomorrow to discuss the report card?”), whereas, others add to the value of the resources and information shared.
This link (http://taylor2s.blogspot.ca/2014/03/it-is-certain-you-will-love-these-games.html) is to my classroom blog that I used last year. I shared the link on every paper newsletter I sent home, tweeted it, wrote it in agendas, had the students start there at the beginning of each session on the computers in the class – we used it all the time! My class was used to the site and they would go home and share it with their family. I could then use it share information with the families. (I went on leave at the end of the year and was even able to invite my LTO onto the site as a guest blogger to post while I was away!).
If you choose to email your newsletter, send it as a PDF and CC your principal. This adds an extra level of transparency. Be advised however, that when it is sent as an email, it is easy for a parent to hit reply and ask a question, make a comment, etc (i.e., should we send extra mittens that day just in case? – something that they can figure out on their own, or put in the agenda if it is really a burning question). Make sure you send it during normal school hours (8-5 is a good general rule of thumb) and be careful not to engage in casual conversation over email. You need to maintain professional boundaries when dealing with parents at all times. With email, it is easy to get casual.
Communication is an essential part of teaching. When you are communicating with all of the parents in your class, you can be more general in your approach. Next week, I will look at more specific communication tools for when you want to contact individual parents.