Similarly to Tina and Roz, I use different means of communication to stay connected with families throughout the year, mostly our classroom website, face-to-face contact, and agendas. It is difficult to limit yourself to one tool to suit the needs of all families. At the beginning of the year I send a paper newsletter and ask for email addresses to invite families to view our classroom website and receive updates from our weekly blog. This is a big hit in the community where I teach, as many parents like to get reminders on their mobile phones or sync our class calendar to their personal calendar. Most of the emails I receive are simple questions that require a simple and quick response, such as setting up interview times or confirming ad due date. Like Roz, if the request is something more delicate, I often call the parent and discuss the concern over the phone or set up a time to meet in person.
Since I teach a grade one and two class, I walk them each day to the outside door to meet their parents or sitters. The parents that I see daily or weekly can easily approach me with a quick question or I can provide an update without having to make time for the phone or computer. For example, I have a grade one student who has arrived in September with no English language. One or two days a week, her mother may ask me about something we have done in class that her daughter is trying to understand and has told her mother at home. With the mother there as the translator, we achieve quite a lot in a few minutes. These quick discussions are easier, more casual, and provide positive support for the student’s learning on a consistent basis (in addition to the support she receives in the classroom), which connects her learning to her home and family.
At my school, every student from grade one to six purchases an agenda in September. At first, I thought this was taking a step backward on my path to improve parent communication with the use of technology. Now, I realize it is just one more means of communication – not only between me and the parents, but it supports communication between the students and their parents when they refer to it together at home. I decided that if the children are all buying the agendas in my class, then we would make good use of them. So, when the students get settled at entry they first open their agenda and find the day’s date. We do quick math skills, talk about health and wellness while evaluating our feelings and assessing our exercise and eating habits for the week, in addition we use the calendar in the agendas rather than a shared calendar, and the students write reminders to themselves. I do not sign the agendas daily, but I do a quick walk around to either read, respond, or initiate a comment as needed. It has also helped with classroom management during the transition from entry to the time we meet together for our gathering circle. The children have learned to explore their agendas (agenda work), if my attention is focused on addressing a student concern or speaking to a parent at the classroom door.
Although keeping up a few forms of communication sounds like juggling balls in the air (and it sometimes is), it is the best way to meet the needs and include all families. By ensuring that you have communicated with parents about any concerns, your face-to-face communication during scheduled interviews will be easier for you and the parents!