Why communicate at all?
Why communicate with parents? Because your principal says you have to? Because you need to resolve an issue? Because there is a test on Friday and you want parents to encourage kids to study? Because you’re trying to get your National Boards and parent and community outreach is part of Standard 4? These are all good motivations, but ultimately, you’re talking to parents in order to build supportive relationships around their students. Students whose parents have relationships with their teachers do better in class, come to school more often and get in trouble less.
Educators need to drive the conversation with parents in some cases because the kids aren’t going to do if for you.
With that in mind, here are some ideas for using SchoolStatus communication tools.
When to text
Texting is a great way to relay short pieces of information and request to get a quick response. Texting is great for introducing yourself, asking the parent to reply Y (this locks in your number), and save you as a contact. Texting is also great for answering a simple question, reporting an update, or scheduling a call to talk in greater detail.
Send pictures via text! A .jpg or .png file is worth a thousand words. (Those are the two file types our text tools support.)
When not to text
When you need to give out sensitive details. Never send sensitive information via text, like grades, test scores, discussion of accommodations, or sensitive behavior issues over text. Note that when you send a text to the parent's phone, the student could be on the other end.
Too late or too early. Try to start conversations when the parents are likely to reply, or at least likely to be up and active. Try to avoid texting after 8 p.m. or before 6:30/7:00 a.m., unless the parent has requested this. If a parent initiates a conversation and you’re up to respond, go for it. already asleep or thinking about being asleep.
When to Broadcast
Broadcast messages let you send a text to an entire class, a group of students, or a list of select individuals. These messages will be sent to more than one contact, so keep that in mind when composing them. Broadcasts are best used for sending out brief messages like “Chapter 4 math quiz is tomorrow,” or “Remember to turn in your flashcards.” Note that parents who receive your message may not respond unless you request confirmation.
Parents will receive the text from the same number they use to text 1:1 messages. As far as the parent knows, your message appears as if you sent that message to them only. Their response will show up in your communication history with that parent. Each response initiates a 1:1 message between the sender and the parent responding.
When not to Broadcast
Broadcasts and texts should not be used to address student-specific issues. Broadcast messaging should use many of the same rules as text messaging in general. You may want to reconsider sending a Broadcast in the late evening or early morning since parents usually get an immediate notification when someone texts, and you don’t want to wake a parent up at midnight on Monday with a reminder about the Thursday quiz.
Because Broadcast messages sometimes have to "queue" before they can be sent, Broadcast messages may not arrive as quickly as individual messages. While this may only be a difference of a minute or two, and doesn't usually pose a problem, Broadcast may not be ideal for your most urgent messages.
How should you send urgent messages? Check out our Notify option for your district.
When to send an email
Emails between two people are generally considered a secure way to discuss grades, accommodations, behavior, etc. Enabling "read receipts" for emails is a great feature you can use to track if they are being opened. Pro Tip: If you send those emails through SchoolStatus, you will have a record of when they have been opened.
Email can be the best way to reach a parent with a desk job. Parents who work in an office setting will generally check their email a few times a day. If you have a .pdf file that you want the parent to have, study guides, rubrics, student work, an email will be the best vehicle for that since texts can only send a .jpg or .png in SchoolStatus.
When not to email
Avoid email if you need a fast response. Many parents rarely check their email accounts and your incoming message could end up getting buried under junk mail or in their spam folder. 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. Also, check to see how many of your parents have an email on file; if not every parent has an email address on file, this may not give you the blanket communications you are hoping to have.
When to call
Calling is best when you have a lot of questions to ask before you can proceed, or when you need to hear verbal confirmation that the parent understands the situation. Texting to set up the call is always recommended.
Calling is the ideal method of communication for letting your students’ contacts know that you care. The sound of your voice is reassuring to a parent - they want to know you, and conversations can build trust. 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 genuine care you have for your students.
Calling Myths: "I don't want to call because..."
“It’s my word against the parents.” TRUE. Documentation is a good thing. Your calls are recorded, and parents are made aware of that before they talk to you.
“If I call a parent, there isn’t any real record of that.” FALSE. SchoolStatus automatically logs your calls for you and captures audio of the call that you can download.
“If I call a parent on my cell phone, they get my cell phone number and they call me at 5 am 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 3 am…) Phone calls are the best! #alwayscall