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.
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.