It’s American Education Week. It’s a week dedicated to those who make an impact on the education of our children. The village consists of more than your child’s teachers and administrators, and this week gives the flowers, so to speak, to all who have a hand in your child’s education. I was in a traditional classroom setting for 13 years and a technology coach in a school for a year and half. I’ve seen the ways in which schools communicate with parents change drastically over time.
The above illustration was on a site for a product schools could use to digitize their communication with parents. However, I found it to be a great illustration of how many schools try to communicate with parents and how most parents would prefer to get pertinent information. This blog post is about school to parent digital communication. I’m going to offer tips to help you either enhance what you’re doing or implement a new method of communication. For parents, I’m going to offer you some helpful information as well to become a more active participant in the life of your child the student.
Many schools now have digital means of checking grades or sharing important information. On the flip side, while I was employed in a very technology rich district here in SC, the school I worked in was made up of many families who were less fortunate with a heavy free/reduced lunch population. Because of this, the school was hesitant to utilize technological means to communicate because the assumption was that parents will not have access to it.
Today, I challenge you to reconsider your expectations. If you have none, then there’s nothing for parents to strive to reach and/or exceed. When a standard is set, with proper training and preparation, I believe that most will get on board with the vision. In teacher preparation at Winthrop University, we were taught that high expectations should be present for every student who walks into our classrooms. If you enter into a school year with the attitude of what students can’t or won’t do, then that’s exactly what you’ll get from them even if they could do more. The same is true for adults. Even though there was a high percentage of households in the school I was in who didn’t have internet access in the home, they would find a way to make sure they stayed abreast of what was going on with their student(s) if that was the expectation of the school. Libraries have free wifi. Parent may have access to wifi at work, or they could use their mobile data. My point is to give them the opportunity. Let’s examine a few ways to open the doors of your school or classroom so parents, whose schedules do not always permit their physical presence in the schools can still be a part of their student’s school life. Effective communication tools are vital.
Tip 1 – Create school social media.
Even if some parents don’t have internet in the home, they have cell phones and have access to social media. Create a school Facebook page and post the great things going on in your school or classroom. Share important announcements via Twitter. Post images or short clips of events, field studies, or lessons via Instagram. The possibilities are endless. As a parent, my schedule doesn’t always allow the opportunity for me to be with my son, but through his teacher’s blog and other digital means, I don’t feel left out of approximately 40 hours a week of his life.
Tip 2 – Digitize the school newsletter.
Let’s face it. Paper gets stashed under some mail or accidentally thrown away or intentionally thrown away. The average parent today gets their child from school and no, they don’t go straight home. There’s karate, soccer, dance, cheerleading, basketball, football, church, and a myriad of other extracurricular activities. At what point, do you think they are going to take out a piece of paper and read? Create a school blog. It’s an excellent tool for displaying the school newsletter. Parents can read it on the go without having to wonder where they put that piece of paper.
Tip 3 – Calling posts, text messages and email lists still work.
Sometimes, I think my son’s school has TOO much to say. I get a phone call, text, email, blog post from the school AND his teacher! I almost want to say enough already, but I have grown to appreciate all the various facets of their communication strategy. You have access to parent emails and phone numbers (most of which are mobile). Use them. I may not have time to listen to a recorded message, but my voicemail picks it up. If I don’t get it that way, an email will come through with the message in text form. The key is to find us where we are.
Now for parents, here are some ways you can be an active participant in your child’s education even if you can’t physically be in the school every time the opportunity presents itself.
Tip 1 – If your school district uses a parent portal like PowerSchool, create an account for yourself.
In Richland School District 2, here in SC, PowerSchool is a system where you can track your child’s attendance, grades, graduation credits, etc. Gone are the days where we don’t know until weeks into the marking period that our student(s) is not performing well in a particular subject area. I’m able to see his progress as often as his teacher updates it, and if it isn’t updated, I have the right to call and inquire on when it will be. This is an excellent resource to open the lines of communication between parents and teachers.
Tip 2 – If your school sends pertinent information via email, text or voicemail, make sure your information stays up to date in the school system.
Your email should be one that you check often. I have all my emails on my phone so I don’t miss anything. If you change phone numbers, let the school know as soon as possible. Emergencies happen, and I have worked at three different schools in the same district and have witnessed serious incidents unfold and no one has current contact information for the parent. For general communication purposes, keep all contact information current. Wonderful events are going like Veteran’s Day programs, Black History Month assemblies, sporting events, and school pageants. You can’t always count on your student to relay the information, so having current contact information keeps you in the loop.
Tip 3 – If your child’s school is using social media, like their page or follow them.
How cool is it that even though you had to work, you were still “present” at your son or daughter’s school assembly he or she had a part in? How proud would you be to watch the graduation of your child because you’re overseas? How important would it be to know right away via tweet that busses are running, so your child may not be at the bus stop as early as expected? Inclement weather is approaching, so school is closing early. That kind of information is needed immediately. Social media can give you immediately. Social media opens up the doors of a school or classroom and allows you entry for those special moments in your child’s life.