Effective Parent-Teacher Communication

 

Who is most responsible for nurturing a child’s mind and body?

Parents and teachers of course! Although parents and teachers have an immense impact on a child, keeping these two aspects of a child’s life on the same page can be tricky. Even so, parent teacher communication is priceless when it comes to a child’s education, to a parents’ peace of mind, and to the success of the education system. 

 

According to the Pew Research center American children spend from around 943 hours in first grade, 1,016 in 7th and 1,025 hours in 11th.It is difficult to calculate an average for every grade level due to varying standards between states. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/09/02/school-days-how-the-u-s-compares-with-other-countries/) Never the less, we can all agree that it is a significant portion of a child’s life. A significant portion that parents must trust their children are being supported and guided by their teachers. But how can they know? 

When students come home from school, parents want to know about their day. If you are a parent, you know that getting a child to verbally relay everything significant about their day can be trying for both adult and child.  Questions such as “How was your day?” and “What did you learn?” are often too vague and difficult to answer. A student may have learned an incredible amount that day but can only remember an anecdote used to explain a concept during math class. This does not mean that a day of learning was lost. Instead, it shows what the child is recalling at that exact moment. Which is extremely valuable! This is an opportunity for adults to join in. Being able to expand a child’s education by asking questions about something interesting to them, is a fantastic way to bond with a child. It encourages higher level thinking, conversational skills, and a joy for sharing knowledge and ideas. However, if a parent doesn’t understand what the child is trying to explain or the child is feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of the questions, it can make talking about school frustrating. This is often where one word responses such as “good” and “nothing” become a problem. This is where poor parent teacher communication begins to hurt a parent’s trust in the quality of education their child is receiving. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if parents could ask less intimidating questions?

Photo by Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media / Getty Images

Would that not only encourage their child to communicate, but also explore the ideas teachers have planted during the day? If parents and teachers communicate well, a mother or father could say something more constructive. Instead of “What did you learn at school today?” One could say, “I know you’ve been learning about the water cycle in science. Can you check the weather to see if there will be any precipitation tomorrow?”

Simply knowing what a child is studying is a precious tool in helping them apply what they’ve learned to their personal lives. Which is after all the greatest point of education. Communication between parents and teachers lets them join forces to help students get the most out of their educations. Education tools such as Lennections can help simplify and streamline this link between parents and the classroom.

So what are some goals that teachers should be aiming for?

How can they be sure that parents feel connected and involved? Well the Parent Teacher Administration (PTA) has posted on their website (http://www.pta.org/nationalstandards) what they believe to be the six standards for successful “family-school partnerships”. These standards include:

  • Making all families feel welcome

  • Maintaining effective “two-way” communication

  • Supporting students

  • Speaking up for every child

  • Sharing power between parents and staff

  • Collaboration with the community

Keep in mind these are the minimum standards for the PTA. They are incredibly broad and meant to be used as goals for schools and communities to reach for together by making communication and involvement a priority. 

However, as mentioned earlier, this does not come naturally to most people. Many parents and teachers make it through the school year with little to no contact, leaving gaping holes in the child’s education. But there is good news. It is never too late. There are steps that parents and teachers can take now to foster healthy lines of communication. 

In John Halloran’s article, 7 Effective Parent Teacher Communication Tips (http://www.teachhub.com/parent-teacher-communication-tips), he has accumulated some incredible tips for teachers. He explains the importance of teachers setting communication objectives at the very beginning of the school year, these objectives should include explaining to parents how communication will be maintained during the year and sharing expectations for children. Halloran explains that when parents understand a teachers high expectations for the student, it creates a partnership between the parent and teacher. This partnership will be key when academic or behavior problems arise. Parents are more likely to understand that a teacher is looking to help the child succeed and therefore more willing to participate in a constructive dialog about how to resolve issues at school and home.

Once communication is established, what should be discussed?

The American Federation of Teachers posted an article on http://www.readingrockets.org/article/building-parent-teacher-relationships titled Building Parent-Teacher Relationships. The article states that there are three categories to keep in mind through all forms of communication:

  • Classroom learning activities

  • Child’s accomplishments

  • How the parents can help at home with their child’s learning

 Parents need to know that teachers recognize the importance of these three categories. Informed parents are supportive parents. 

As society develops, more and more ways to communicate must be utilized to reach every students home. One form of communication may not be effective for an entire class. For some, a daily agenda note may work.  For others, emails. Even still for others, a phone call. The best route for communication depends on the nature of the topic, the child’s ability to pass on information, and the family’s access to technology. Special events and conferences are a fantastic way to get face to face time with parents. However, it is important to remember that if little to no communication has been maintained throughout the year, it will be near impossible to consolidate months of observations and suggestions into quick conversations. Events are not private enough nor appropriate times to discuss individualized concerns. Events and group conferences are incredible for sharing entire class objectives and curriculum goals. 

Teachers should be mindful of diversity when choosing methods for communication. Be clear and consistent. Make plans with parents for follow ups. Keep it positive! Remember the point of communication is to support children. If adjustments need to be made to accommodate academic or behavioral problems, teachers should first acknowledge a child’s strengths, passed attempts to resolve the issue and lastly, some suggestions on how to move forward. Parents need to know that the teacher has already been thinking about ways to encourage achievement in their child. Knowing that their child’s best interest is being kept in mind will make parents happier and more effective partners.