My daughter’s first-grade teacher sent home a letter welcoming us to the new year and helping pave the way for her expectations. One of the main take-aways from the letter is how important a parent’s involvement is in their child’s academic success. She explained how parents are part of the team that helps build a solid relationship with education and learning. Parent-teacher communication is critical to that success throughout the year.
One problem teachers face is how to get in touch with parents consistently. Sure, they may send home flyers that share information about their child, upcoming events, and anything else, but sometimes those flyers can go unnoticed, or ignored. Especially if a parent has more than one student in school, and the papers start to pile up!
For other important communication at the school level, the most common method is when you receive a phone call with a recorded message sharing some information – like a school closure, or district wide events like fundraising within the community. This is more or less a successful way of communicating – as long as parents answer their phones or check their voice mails. But, for all of the day-to-day, or week-to-week communication, specifically about their students, the right tool for a teacher might be digital. Many parents attend a meet and greet with their child’s teacher at the beginning of the school year, and during that time it could be helpful if teachers asked the parents which digital tools they feel comfortable using.
A number of tools have been developed in recent years to make it possible to share student work, or simply share important information.
Here’s the low-down on the existing parent-teacher communication tools:
School portals are common, but they are often clunky, usually poorly designed, and not intuitive. I would guess that many parents throw their hands up with frustration at the lack of communication about HOW to use these portals, and how to actually get the information they need from them.
Facebook has features that provide opportunities for parent-teacher engagement. This requires a teacher to create a page for their classroom or courses, and to let parents know the page exists, or invite them to a private group. This also allows parents to directly message the teacher as a form of two-way-communication.
Learning Management Systems
Many Learning management systems have features that provide access to lessons, assignments, grades, and other details the teacher or school provides. Whether they allow for teacher messages or day-to-day communication depends on the platform. Some learning management systems that foster parent-teacher engagement include Google Classroom, and Blackboard K-12.
Google Classroom: Once teachers set up their students in Google Classroom, parents can get classroom announcements, an overview of their student’s progress, and due dates for assignments.
Blackboard K-12: In addition to Blackboard’s online classroom platform, they enable the creation of branded school websites—which is helpful for school-wide parent engagement. Parents can also log into ParentLink to view information about their child and their coursework.
Seesaw is portfolio tool that students upload their work to, that allows parents to view their child’s projects and writing assignments. Teachers curate all content before it is visible on the platform.
Remind is a one-way messaging application. Teachers could send messages directly to parents if they opt-in, and it will let the teacher know if a user has not seen the message. The parent must set up this app in advance and “join” a class to get messages.
Weebly is a platform to create a class website, which might be the right choice for certain teachers to address their communication needs. The platform is user-friendly, teachers can create a unique website domain name, and depending on their tech savvy, they can share whatever they wish on the site.
This brief list of communication resources provides some choices for parent-teacher engagement. Many of these platforms were surveyed recently, and the results were published in MDR’s latest state of the market report. Staying informed about student progress can be challenging, given how busy many parents lives are. How can schools and/or teachers successfully, and consistently communicate with parents, in a way that is user friendly, considerate of data privacy, and provides the best opportunity for student success? Perhaps it’s a platform that hasn’t been built yet – maybe you can design the right solution.