First off, why are we going to communicate with parents? Because your principal says you have to? Because you have “that kid” and you need to? Because there is a test on Friday and you need the kids to study? Because you’re trying to get your National Boards and parent and community outreach is part of Standard 4?
You’re talking to parents to build relationships with them that revolve around their students. You’re talking to parents because the last time they were in a school building was when they graduated 10+ years ago. You’re talking to parents because it will help kids do better in class, come to school more often, and get in trouble less.
Your students are not telling their parents what is happening at school. When the kids talk to their parents about school it goes like this, “What did you do today?” “Nothing.” “What are you studying?” “I don’t know.” “Did a giant panda attack the school with nunchucks?” “Maybe.”
Educators need to drive the conversation, because the kids aren’t going to do if for you. Parents don’t know what is going on in your school and education can’t stop at 3pm.
With that in mind, here are some ideas for Best Practices for Parental Communications.
When to text
Texting is a great way to get a quick response. The use of text is for general information such as introducing yourself to a contact, reporting the student is doing a good job, or scheduling a call to talk about more sensitive subject matter. Texting is an effective way to get your contact number out to parents.
Send pictures of students in school via text! A picture is worth a thousand words. Let this thousand words tell the story of all the cool things the students are doing in your class.
Besides, you like to text and texting has become de rigueur, so we might as well embrace texting with our students’ parent’s too.
When not to text
Never send grades, test scores, discussion of accommodations, or sensitive behavior issues over text. You never know who is on the other end. It is very common for a parent to allow a child to use their phone and one of those children might be on the other end.
Don’t text about important subjects after 8pm or before 6:30/7:00 am (depending on when your school starts). If a parent initiates a conversation and you’re up to respond, go for it. Don’t start the conversation when the parents are already asleep or thinking about being asleep.
When to broadcast
Broadcast messages are a way to send text out to an entire class or group of students. These are best used for sending out general announcements like “Picture day is tomorrow,” or “Remember to turn in your flash cards,” or “Progress reports go out next Thursday, test on chapter 16 on Friday.” These messages will be sent to more than one contact, so keep that in mind when composing them - be general, be positive.
The great part of broadcast texting with SchoolStatus is that parents will receive the text from the same number they use to text 1:1 messages. As far as the parent is aware, you sent that message to them directly and personally, they can respond to it and that will show up in your communication history with that parent. Each response initiates a 1:1 message with you, the sender, and the parent responding.
When not to broadcast
Broadcast messaging should use many of the same rules as text messaging in general. It should not be used to divulge any grades or private information.
You should also note that Broadcast messages are not instant, so it can take some time for your message to send. You wouldn’t want to tell people you’re getting out of school early via Broadcast - Little Johnny might be home knocking on the door before mom gets the message. You may also want to think about sending a Broadcast in the evening, you don’t want to wake a parent up to tell them “Test on Thursday” when it’s a Monday.
When to email
Email is generally more secure than texting. Information sent can be considered far more private. Emails are generally safe to discuss grades, accommodations, behavior, etc. Enabling read receipts is a great feature on emails to track if they are being opened. Pro Tip: If you send those emails through SchoolStatus, you will have record of when they have been opened.
Email is also a great way to reach the working parent. Parents who work in a office setting will generally check their email a few times a day.
If you have a file that you want the parent to have, study guides, rubrics, student work, email will be the best vehicle for that.
When not to email
Do not use email if you expect a fast response. Many student contacts will rarely check their emails. When you send out an email, you may want to send out a text or give the contact a call to let them know to look for it.
When to call
Calling is the ideal method of communication. Calling is great for letting your students’ contacts get to know you. The sound of your voice is reassuring to a parent - they want to know you. They want to talk to you. You might be surprised that parents want to talk, but think about it if you’re a parent (if you’re not, think about your parents), what do parents’ like to talk about most? Their kids. Give them an opportunity to talk about their kids with you.
Talking on the phone allows people to hear your voice, the nuance, the subtlety, the timbre. More importantly, calling lets parents hear the caring, the seriousness, the love you have for these students (it’s ok, you can admit it, you love these kids. Oh, how do we know? Because you just read a blog post to this point about talking to their parents).
“Because then it’s my word against the parent’s.” Yep, your calls are recorded and parents are made aware of that before they talk to you.
“Well, if I call a parent, there isn’t any real record of that.” SchoolStatus automatically logs your calls for you.
“If I call a parent on my cell phone, they get my cell phone number and they call me at 5am to find out if we get out of school because of snow.” SchoolStatus will mask your number and assign you and the parent you are talking to another unique, real phone number that will only ever be used to talk to you and that parent about that student.
“Calling takes too long…” You haven’t tried it; the average call lasts less than 5 minutes and covers way more than the one topic in your text or email.
“Ok fine, but then I have to talk to people.” Yes, yes you do… SchoolStatus can’t make that less awkward, but put on your best teacher voice and take command of the situation - parents are students too, teach them about their kids.
When not to call
NEVER! ALWAYS CALL! If you can make a phone call - do that! (Maybe not at 3am…) Phone calls are the best! #alwayscall