Communicating Our Way to a Successful School Year
As parents, our lives are beyond busy, but teachers and schools know this, and many have made communication adjustments to cater to our non-stop lifestyles. These adjustments utilize technology to convey important information to students and parents. Our responsibility is to learn the chosen means of communication, and seek communication, both new forms and traditional, from three levels: the teacher, school, and district.
Communication with the teacher will involve specific information about your child or more general information about the class. As your student moves from lower elementary to upper, middle, and then high school, don’t expect to continue to find a weekly newsletter in his binder. Although there may be no newsletter, there is still information to be communicated. One source of communication should be the teacher’s website which can be a valuable communication tool. Make it a priority to visit the website of your child’s teacher and create a bookmark for easy access as some teachers update them weekly. Many website will include a lesson plan, links to helpful websites, important dates to remember, and information concerning other communication tools.
Other communication tools might include Twitter, Remind 101, and Class Dojo. Similar to the way Twitter allows a user to follow another, Remind 101 and Class Dojo allow parents to enroll into a particular course. In Remind 101, the administrator of the course (the teacher) sends messages that appear as a text message to all enrolled. For Class Dojo, parents get an email and/or notification that informs them to check the Class Dojo app. Once the app is open, parents can see messages or photos sent from the teacher. Pisgah Elementary kindergarten teacher Tracy Lofton, expressing her opinion of Class Dojo, said, “I like that parents can see ‘snapshots’ through the day. I can send newsletters and other information by picture on Class Dojo.” She also believes that it is an “easy” way to communicate in our “busy” world. Mrs. Lofton is just one of many teachers working hard to find ways to communicate information to parents in a way that meets their needs and lifestyle.
These forms of communication work well for general course information such as important deadlines and other reminders; however, parents must also be aware of their child’s individual progress. This is made easier with the use of digital grade books, which allow parents to see grades as they are entered. Programs such as PowerSchool provide a portal for parents to access their child’s grades, and some even email weekly progress reports. As for quarterly report cards, expect them around certain yearly markers: the state fair, Christmas break, spring break, and the end of the school year.
Another tool for communication, and perhaps the quickest and easiest, is email. A teacher’s email address should be located on the school’s website and/or the teacher’s individual webpage. Using email to communicate allows for both parents and teachers to communicate quickly and conveniently and to keep a record of topics discussed.
Let’s not neglect traditions forms of communication. For an issue that requires immediate attention, a hand-written note, sent with your child in a sealed envelope, still works.
Parent communication should be not only with the teacher but also the school. Schools inform parents about events, holidays, and other important information. As with teacher websites, school websites also provided useful information. Schools may have an email list for parents interested in email updates from the school. Other technology utilized by schools may include Twitter or Facebook. Simply search for your school and follow its page. More traditionally, many schools also have a PTO, parent—teacher organization. For a small fee, parents and teachers can join the organization. The PTO will organize various school events and work to make improvements to the school. Events such as open house or back to school night provide an opportunity for parents to talk to teachers and gather information about the classes and other methods of teacher communication.
School districts use many of the same communication opportunities that the schools use. From a school district website to Twitter, school districts will inform parents of district wide news including holidays, board meetings, fundraisers, etc.
To learn more about the different ways your child’s teacher, school, and district communicate with parents, not only search websites and social media but also call the school. This school year, help your student by communicating your way to a successful school year!
By Beth McKay