4 Steps for Mastering School-to-Home Communication
School-to-home communication, a key driver of parent engagement, has dramatically changed over the years. In past decades, schools rarely reached out to families unless there was an emergency or problem with a student. In fact, it was widely accepted that “no news is good news,” which forced parents and schools to act independently to support the needs of the child.
But times have changed. Parent engagement is now widely recognized as a key contributor to student success, and with web-based tools and increased mobility, schools can easily reach and collaborate with parents like never-before.
Today, parent communication has reached an all-time-high, and schools are experiencing tangible benefits in the form of improved student performance, higher teacher morale, and increased volunteer hours and donations. However, even though school administrators understand the importance of engaging parents, delivering great school communication is easier said than done.
Simply letting parents know is an important first step towards helping them become involved. Sometimes we take things for granted or we consider them self-evident when we should not. Be proactive, positive and consistent in your communication with parents. Fragmented or isolated efforts are not going to yield sustainable results, nor will they contribute to a system change. Proactive communication is the organic force that builds stronger relationships and school advocates, and nurturing it is not an objective but a daily practice.
Move beyond logistics in school newsletters
Communication should be a mix of vision and conversation. Don’t let your newsletters be the harbinger of bland, long logistical information. Shorten the newsletters and enrich the interaction by sharing news and moments as if sharing with family.
Deliver clear advice about school policies and routines
In times of rough weather conditions or an untoward incident in news, re-share what you will do in emergencies, your preparedness and procedures to put parent minds at ease. Think about routines such as morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups where you often need to re-iterate school policies to ensure safety.
Share positives and showcase success
When exciting improvements are being made, everyone at your school feels the momentum. But do your parents feel the same way? They won’t unless you invest in consistent communication. Reflect on successes at school to create a more positive, motivated school culture centered around higher student expectations. Parents who receive good news from school have more opportunities to discuss the successful experiences with their children and be actively involved with them in positive ways. One of our favorite ways to share success is via pictures. Pictures offer a fun and easy way to share school news and keep your school connected.
In addition to informing parents and keeping them in the know, offering specific ways they can help at home provides parents with structured opportunities to participate in their child’s education. Share information and suggestions that are aligned with the broader curriculum framework and expand learning from the classroom to home and beyond. Educate parents sharing your knowledge and expertise on how they can communicate with their children and continue to be involved as children grow from toddlers to teenagers.
Provide parents with helpful learning strategies
Recommend practical and specific suggestions and strategies on how parents can further assist with their child’s education, empowering them to become involved in the learning process. Provide parents with pointers on how to teach, resolve conflicts, how to guide children towards learning the importance of sharing, and to become good citizens.
Inspire leadership and build trust with families
Good leadership builds trust with families and creates advocates at home and in the community. Use effective communication to build trust. Principals can do this by sending personalized communication out to parents, sharing ideas, accomplishments at school and success stories. Include clear and respectful messages, follow up on commitments and provide opportunities for feedback.
Build parents’ capacity to communicate with their child about learning
Educators are experts who can provide guidelines on effective communication with children; the nuances of what to say and which phrases to avoid. This can be done by empowering parents with practical communication strategies, providing them with questions and conversation starters that can be used to discuss learning with children, and assigning homework tasks that allow parents to contribute and participate.
The goal with informing and educating parents is to build a productive partnership to further assist children to succeed in school and later in life. Partnership is a two-way street: Allow parents to provide positive feedback and give them opportunities to collaborate. It is important to take time to listen and gather information from your stakeholders to build true partnerships. Ongoing effective two-way communication will ensure the forging of long term relationships with families and build successful community.
Gather together as a family
Plan and arrange simple school activities and events that the children, parents and educators can attend together in an informal setting. These gatherings also provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to learn about and appreciate each other’s cultural differences.
Provide opportunities for positive feedback
Enable and encourage parents to respond to your notes by providing space for comments or by including quick questions as a guide. Opening up the lines of communication conveys to parents the important message that their perspective is valued and will be used by the school. Parents’ positive perception highly influences their children’s perception of school, which, in turn, positively contributes to students’ academic, social, and emotional learning.
Provide simple tools to gather input
Use a variety of approaches and follow-up communications to increase the number of parents reached. Gathering parent input on changes and new policies give parents a chance to express their goals for their child’s education and clearly communicate your commitment to including parents as collaborators in the education of children.
Create visibility into participation to create new participants and build community
Volunteering and contributing supplies not only augments school’s resources but builds supportive and informative relationships between educators and parents leading to higher overall satisfaction. Parents who participate send a strong message to their children that school is important. Provide opportunities to parents to get involved at school. Recognize and reward the positive school-family partnership by providing visibility into the participation.
Great leaders are passionate about what they do and inspire others through their unique ability to communicate and build relationships. As a leader of your school, share your wisdom, vision and strategy with your parents and teachers. Inspiring communication is undoubtedly a process but it is undeniably fruitful for the growth of the school culture and enriching to the families.
Share your school’s philosophy and experiences to build advocacy
How parents participate at your school and in their child’s life is inextricably linked to how well you communicate. It is important to establish credibility as a competent professional and set the precedence for ongoing collaboration.
Foster positive relationships between teachers and parents
Engagement is everyone’s responsibility including teachers and also parents. Empower your teachers and parents to share inspirational thoughts. Nurture the relationship with positive communiques to build a trust and credibility to tide you through the times when negative information needs to be shared.
Create strategic and visionary communication with parents
Parents play an integral role in assisting their child’s learning. For parents to be full partners in their child’s education, parent roles must be expanded in decision making at the school. Provide the opportunity, support, incentive and expectation to make wise decisions.
It’s an exciting time to be an education leader. The evolving educational landscape, with new tools and technology has changed the way schools communicate and partner with parents like never before. Schools can now easily reach and interact with parents in their preferred methods and languages.
Two-way communication has given families the opportunity to ask questions, provide feedback or simply say thank you for the information sent. Principals are building strong relationships with parents by extending their leadership home and inviting families to participate in strategic discussions. And teachers are providing windows into the classroom by sharing daily classroom activities and photos and equipping parents with conversation starters.
By investing in proactive and consistent communication, schools can build stronger school communities, encourage parents to become more engaged, and directly impact the success of each child. Everyone wins!
This information is courtesy of ParentSquare, which helps unify all school communication into one private, user-friendly platform, www.parentsquare.com.