May 19: Communicating with Families

Teacher communicates with families about students’ progress on a regular basis, respecting cultural norms, and is available as needed to respond to the family concerns. This component of standard 7 Families and Community emphasizes the importance of culturally appropriate communication with families regarding student academic and social performance that is transparent and proactive as well as the willingness to work with families to address concerns about individual student performance. The family plays a significant role in the education of students and with ongoing conversation teachers and parents can work together to support all types of learners and their various needs. The primary means of teacher-family communication at my school are email and a cloud-based application, student information system (PlusPortals) which includes homework, grades, progress reports and teacher/class information; parents and teachers mutually use these modes of communication to discuss student progress and concerns which typically focus on grades.

 

The school wide policy for responding to emails and voicemail is 24 hours and the expectation for updating PlusPortals is daily for homework, in class handouts, and notes as well as every 2 weeks for inputting grades. Grades are live, so student academic progress is communicated immediately with smaller assignments and up to 2 weeks after students submit larger assessments. PlusPortals is an incredible resource for families and students to work together to keep on top of assignments, use the calendar to see what is upcoming, and reach out to the teacher when needed.

Image 1.1 PlusPortals homework assignment information, due dates, and downloads.

Image 1.1 PlusPortals homework assignment information, due dates, and downloads.

I have found that being proactive when it comes to student performance saves the family, student, and teacher time and grief in the long run. It is also important to follow-up with families who have raised concerns about their student as my mentor practiced by sending a follow-up email after our meeting with a mother about her student. Just before my internship began, my mentor and I met with this particular parent along with the student’s counselor and administrators to openly discuss concerns she was having in what my school refers to as a staffing. It was helpful going into internship knowing more about the class, and the mother’s concern for her son, and helped me to be able to support his specific needs while I was the teacher. If I hadn’t taken the time to be present at the meeting and hear her concerns, I would not have been able to provide what her son needed. Being in contact with his mother helped her to support him from home, and together, we were able to see him make positive improvements academically and socially.

Image 1.2 Mentor teacher's email to parent to update student progress.

Image 1.2 Mentor teacher’s email to parent to update student progress.

Admittedly, I do need to work on reaching out to parents when I notice positive things happening in my classroom. It is easy to send an email when behaviorally, socially, or academically a student is struggling, but the positive interactions and achievements seem to be more difficult for me to reach out to parents about. I would like to improve in this area and I hope to be able to send weekly updates to all of the families highlighting what has happened in classroom that week, highlighting specific students each week, and updating them on what is to come. Positive communication is extremely powerful and I hope to be better at keeping my parents informed in this way. If I can take the time to send an email about a missing assignment, I can take the time to send an email applauding a student for their leadership, kindness, or willingness to take a risk in the classroom.

Image 1.3 Response to parent concern about assignments and performance.

Image 1.3 Response to parent concern about assignments and performance.

When it comes to communication, my rule of thumb is to always be positive and if I haven’t been able to reach out to a parent for something positive at first, being gracious and helpful always helps me to create a team effort between the parent and teacher. This is especially helpful if an email, or voicemail, are frustrating at first. And most importantly, when it comes to frustrating communications, it is best practice to walk away and come back to it at a later time rather than responding in the moment. I always like to thank the parent for sending me the email and if the student hasn’t raised a similar concern, I inform the parent that I am going to reach out to their student to discuss it further.

Currently I am drafting an email to my families to inform them of upcoming assessments and deadlines as well as offering helpful tips to the freshman parents when it comes to supporting their students for final exams. Even though I don’t expect any responses from parents, it is important to communicate these types of things to them as they directly correlate to student academic performance and even anxiety; I want to be a resource to my families so that they feel they can support their students from home without having me there to help them. Teaming with parents to support and encourage their students is a vital part of being an educator and there are always opportunities to reach out to parents and update them on student progress.

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