Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ideas to Increase Parent Communication in Schools


Last night I participated in #edchat on Twitter and the topic of discussion focused on techniques teachers could use to improve communication with parents.  I added my ideas on the topic and attempted to link techniques and strategies I utilize to both teachers and administrators.  Educators must be experts in effective communication techniques, especially when it comes to parents. 

In my experience I have identified 4 key principles that lay a foundation for communicating effectively with parents: Transparency, Honesty, Accessibility, and Flexibility.  As you will see, these four principles can be applied to the following strategies that I either utilize or were discussed last night:

1. Make your professional email and Twitter accounts available this way parents can contact you at their convenience.   I do this in the beginning of the school year in the form of a letter that is sent home to all parents.  This letter also provides detailed information on what Twitter is, how to sign up, and setting up an account to receive SMS text messages.  This versatility, allowing parents to receive updates on their own terms, makes Twitter unlike any traditional communication tool that I’ve ever used as a principal. As far as transparency goes, is there any application more effective than Twitter? In response to parent feedback I created an "Official" school account (NewMilfordHS).  With each tweet I also included a direct link back to our school’s main website and our school’s colors, mascot and logo. This makes our page stand out to viewers and establishes a brand presence.  People know who we are because I took the time to fill out that basic information.
2. Create your own website and include contact information, availability to meet with or speak to parents, extra help hours, student assignments, press, etc. This is also a great way to convey to parents your philosophy on education, professional accomplishments, and vision for helping students succeed. My website can be viewed by clicking this link.
3. Hold training workshops for parents.  We did this last week for the first time and the feedback from parents was extremely positive.  Topics ranged from health and drug awareness seminars to technology.
4. Call home on both positive and negative issues. 
5. Share as many student and teacher accomplishments and success stories as possible.  Parents want and need to hear the great things happening in our buildings and classrooms. I do this through a monthly Principal's Report
6. Set up a separate phone number for parents using Google Voice (idea via Scott Elias).
7. Make resources readily available for parents using a social bookmarking service.
8. ALWAYS return parent phone calls and emails in a timely fashion!
9. Invite parents into your classrooms/schools.
10. Develop a school Facebook page to advertise events.
11. Institute a positive referral policy and make parents aware of when their child is recognized.
12. Start a blog, let parents know about it, and encourage them to comment on your posts.  Blogs are fantastic communication tools where parents can get a glimpse into your educational life.  

If we’re going to succeed as a school, I’ve got to get several different stakeholder groups---parents, students, community leaders, and businesses---to buy into a set of core beliefs.  That means I’m constantly trying to craft messages that have resonance and trying to deliver those messages in ways that are likely to be heard.  In a lot of ways, communication is the most important thing I do every day. Now these are just some ideas and strategies that I have either utilized during my six plus years as an administrator or are going to implement.  I encourage you to share your thoughts on these ideas and some of the successful ways in which you have fostered positive lines of communication with your parents.

15 comments:

  1. Great ideas Eric. Thanks for sharing your website.

    Sharing my twitter account with parents is a bit of a gut check for me. I am always aware that what I post both on twitter and my blog is public, but I think it would be different when I formally invited parents to follow them.

    Interesting idea to ponder.

    Thanks

    Frank.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What fantastic ideas! I hadn't even thought of using Google Voice. I think every school would benefit from these ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  3. we're just now launching this: http://fridgeworthy.tumblr.com/

    posting it on all school sites, district site, and fb.

    hoping to get videos from each school added weekly to end of year..

    your site is great Eric. wish that was more of the norm.

    ReplyDelete
  4. There are some pretty good suggestions especially the one about workshops for parents, but how do you get them to show up?

    ReplyDelete
  5. We get parents to show up by bombarding them with press releases, email blasts, social networking, etc..

    ReplyDelete
  6. Funny you say that. I spoke to a vice principal and she said in her school to get parents to come in for report cards they raffle off an ipod, xbox, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  7. What a great article!!! LOVE IT. I want to be a parent in your school.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Good ideas. My question is how to engage parents at inner city schools via technology. I remembered when I worked on parental engagement project last year at an inner city school, some parents didn't even have Internet access or email account.

    ReplyDelete
  9. nice features within your site.

    ReplyDelete
  10. lots of ideas I could get from your site.

    bestessays.com review

    thanks,
    badloi

    ReplyDelete
  11. In response to helenwang21, here is a nice blog post with a very clever idea for reaching parents without an internet connection: http://teacheng.us/?p=267
    Parents still need to be proactive, not passive.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Great ideas. I teach at a school in a close knit community. We have a group of teachers go out each month to student homes to "catch" kids reading. They are highlighted the next day on the announcements as being caught by the Reading Prize Posse. Kids know when teachers are coming so EVERYONE is reading!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Businesses on the other hand prioritize having a 1800 Number for communication purposes.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Eric. This is exactly the type of information I was looking for! Thank you! I am writing my thesis on the communication between school management and parents. If you had any ideas of good articles/books/journals I should read on the topic that would be a huge help.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Well there is my new book (Digital Leadership - Corwin Press). In addition to that Dr. Joe Mazza writes extensively on this topic.

    ReplyDelete