Part of our professional responsibility is to communicate with parents about the progress their child is or is not making in your classroom. How much communication? How often to communicate? What way is best? There is no one answer to that. The answer is determined by what is both comfortable and effective for you as a professional.
I use a variety of ways to ensure that my parents know about what is happening in my classroom as well as how their child is doing. The following is a list of the types of communication and what I hope to accomplish with each.
Weekly News – this is a one-page summary that I compose at the end of each week of school. In it I summarize what has been our curriculum focus, as many good news items as possible, important upcoming dates and I typically try to add ways that parents can support their child at home. In addition, our weekly awards’ recipients are listed by name. It goes home on Monday and is due back signed by the following Monday. At the end of the year it is a yearbook for each child. As well I use it as a personal reflection of what I had accomplished that week and what direction I need to go the following week.
Sunshine Calls – these are random calls home where my sole focus is to share good news and celebrate each child. I try to time them with specific deeds of the students as the timing also provides a powerful mode of feedback. If I have to make a call home where the news is not good, I try to ensure that I increase the number of positive calls home after that.
Student Work – I constantly try to share as much of our finished work as possible with parents (not just the evaluation aspect). I will have students share their poetry, a story, read to their family and have the family sign it to show they have had it shared. At times, we invite families in to look at our art displays, attend a poetry recital or drama performance.
Monthly Calls – these are extra calls that go to families of my students who have academic or behavour struggles. It is important to keep families updated and to offer ways for them to support their child. It is too late if I wait until reporting time. There have been times when the frequency of these calls increase to bi-weekly or weekly updates.
Meetings – I work hard to have a face-to-face with each family regardless of whether their child has struggles or is working from an enriched curriculum. There are situations where these meetings are scheduled on a regular basis.
Surveys – Occasionally when I am looking at a special event (often a field trip) I will send a survey home outlining what my intended outcomes are, the proposed cost, details and get them to share their thoughts with me. This is sometimes easier for parents to do in written form.
I have made a personal choice to not use email or any kind of social media as a vehicle of communication to my families. There are pros and cons to this decision and should be left up to each teacher. I just caution you to make sure you are aware of the risks that can be associated with that practice so that you can ensure your protection. If you need more information about communication via social media, I would recommend you contact the ETFO Provincial Office.
The final item I would like to mention is that even though as teachers we have a professional responsibility to communicate to parents, we do not have to endure a parent’s tirade, be yelled at or verbally abused. You have the right to stop any meeting or conversation that is deemed inappropriate. Should you need support with a parent, contact your principal or your local ETFO leadership. The one thing my experience has taught me is that a parent’s approach or view about their child’s schooling is often influenced by the experience they had as a student (good and/or not so good).