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Parent-teacher communication: How to encourage engagement at your school

A well-established parent-teacher relationship can benefit students greatly, but the development of a relationship depends on several things, namely the teacher’s outreach, a parent’s interest, and the school’s overall culture of communication.

The type of things that a teacher communicates to a parent matters as well. If teachers share their students’ successes with the parents, it can provide parents with confidence and direction on how to get involved in their child’s learning process. But if teachers consistently reach out to parents only to share bad news (about their child’s grades or classroom behavior) and neglect to share any positive feedback, this can discourage any parental involvement because it may instill feelings of helplessness or even a distaste for the teaching style.

But when a parent does feel empowered to get involved, there is a significant amount of evidence to show that their involvement benefits students by improving their academic achievement, improving classroom behavior, better motivating students to learn, and instilling a more positive attitude about school and studies.

But teachers can benefit from the relationship as well. Parents who are involved in their child’s learning and have come to know their child’s teacher through regular communication tend to have a more positive view of teachers, and this in turn can boost teachers’ confidence and classroom morale.

What, as principals and school administrators, can you do to encourage the relationship? Read below for some tips.

Focus on communication in all its forms

This includes telephone calls, open houses, curriculum nights, and all are very effective forms of communication.Teachers can do their own individual outreach to their students’ families, and this is often more personal than general communications anyway. Unfortunately, as families evolve and parents’ schedules change, events like open houses may not be as plausible for some families. Encourage teachers to diversify their communication methods and include some of the following:

  • Initial contact letter: Sending home a letter at the beginning of each school year to students’ families is a great way for a teacher to introduce themselves as their child’s teacher and to begin to open a communication path between the teacher and parents.

  • Good news report: As mentioned above, when teachers regularly communicate positive feedback to parents, it gives them an opportunity to garner insight in a teacher’s classroom, and it establishes a realm of trust should problems arise later.

Aside from individual teacher communication, there are other school-wide forms of communication that could integrate parents into the learning process including:

  • parent newsletters

  • School calendars that outline events for parents in advance

  • Field days and school events

  • Parent workshops

  • School website

In an international school, language barriers can be a common challenge. Being sure to address these barriers in a sensitive manner is important. Some tips include:

  • Speak slowly (but not condescendingly) and clearly

  • Avoid idioms, jargon, or culturally specific sayings

  • Choose the most effective medium of communication given the language barriers

  • Check for understanding

As the second semester unfolds, it’s a great idea to think about your school engagement policy and how you plan to engage teachers and parents in communication. More than general information about the school, parents want to know about what is going on in their child’s classroom. This year, take as many opportunities to share this information with parents to develop effective partnerships.

Do you know what really matters to your teaching candidates?