I’ve been in the business of kids, AKA education, for over two decades. A lot has changed in that time, namely the fact that I no longer wear pants to work. Which is to say, when I transitioned from the traditional classroom to the virtual one, work attire transitioned from business casual to pajamas. In light of all the differences I’ve experienced between public and cyberschool, there has always been one steady constant: the importance of school-to-home communication.
No matter how you spin it, keeping parents in the loop is an absolute must when it comes to student success. Whether conversation takes place face-to-face or via FaceTime, it’s imperative all stakeholders play an active role in a child’s education. Having used a variety of tools to maintain open lines of communication, I’m sharing some of my favorites.
Though the styles have certainly transformed, the method has not. Pick it up, dial the number, and start talking. The phone call, though considered antiquated (Old School?) in some circles, is a fantastic way to personalize communication. If you’re working remotely and don’t get to see the people with whom you’re speaking, hearing their voice is the next best thing. Pick up on verbal cues, instantly clarify any confusion—communication via phone is easy and effective.
Online Meetings & Conferences
In case you’re unfamiliar Online Meeting & Conferences, there a a bunch of other monikers that apply: Web Meetings, Web Conferences, Skyping, Webexing, etc. Your school probably already uses a certain platform or tool to host virtual meetings because in today’s educational landscape, parents and caregivers are increasingly busy and it can be difficult to get them to come to the school. While best practice still says initial meetings should be held face-to-face, subsequent or ongoing meetings can (and should!) allow for the virtual kind. Even better, Online Meetings & Conference tools almost always have a video option which personalizes communication. Traveling and working parents or any who are technologically inclined will appreciate being able to stay connected even when not physically present. Food for thought: as a virtual instructor, I now use technology like Skype to hold my parent/teacher conferences. Any teacher in any school could do the same, increasing their chances of having parents participate!
I know, I know—a card? YES! Everyone loves cards, especially when they say stuff like, “Your kid is kicking butt in English class!” Don’t underestimate the power of positive contact; we don’t communicate with parents only to report issues or share information. When we take the time to praise and encourage their student, we’re building a strong foundation. Then, when we do have to call because little Johnny is throwing spitballs again, we’re likely to have an ally instead of an angry parent.
Texting (aka SMS’ing)
I’m going to preface this with a warning: a lot can be misconstrued via text which is why I reserve this form of messaging for small bits of easy information. For example, “Don’t forget to send your field trip money!” is an acceptable text. Nothing will be lost in translation; the message is short and to the point. Whereas something like, “Your child will be suspended for three days because of inappropriate behavior” could incite World War III. Be smart with your texts. Also, Texting can be totally inappropriate for teacher-student communication.
As a general rule, I steer clear from using social media to communicate with parents. It can be great for school-wide events, general news and school closings and the like. If your school has a technology instructor whose responsibilities include sharing school information or successes with the masses, let them handle social media. In my experience, social media attracts what the youngin’s call trolls. In short, trolls do nothing but cause unnecessary trouble and bring unwanted attention to social media accounts and users. Plus, things can get sticky with FERPA and all the rules surrounding communication regarding students. So…let’s just nix this section. Stay away from social media. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
No, that’s not the name of new technology; I’m simply advising that you keep looking if you haven’t yet found your favorite means of school-to-home communication. Check out ZippSlip if you want to see what a HIPAA and FERPA compliant communications tool looks like. Basically, it is all the good stuff rolled into one. It provides a private platform that offers safe, secure and auditable communications tools. Nothing will ever replace personal communication, but ZippSlip does a great job of personalizing communication and maintaining that ever important home-to-school connection.