At the beginning of the school year we have an open house and the families come in to meet the teachers. Since this is our first face-to-face interaction, I try to make them feel as comfortable as possible. It starts with a HANDSHAKE and a SMILE. I try to make them feel like they are the only people in the room at that moment. EYE CONTACT, SMILING, AND ACTIVE LISTENING are three things I focus on during these conversations. I try to make it clear that parents are welcome to contact me about anything and that our classroom door is always open to them. Of course, I do mention that if they need to see/talk to me during the school day, my priority is their child’s learning but I will do my best to make myself as available as possible for them when they call/email.
That being said, I try to reach all of my families on a regular basis. To do this, I use a variety of communication tools. Why? The reason for this is because some of my parents respond best when a newsletter shows up on their email, some prefer to just check their child’s BEE binder in the evening when they sign it, and others prefer to read a newsletter. I wish that I could say that all of my families would read a newsletter that was sent home but in reality, I know that some students’ newsletters find their way to the floor of the bus and never make it home. If this was the only method of communication that I relied on, there would be a lot of frustrated parents that don’t know what is going on. Yes, sad truth.
So, here are the variety of ways that I communicate with parents. I hope you can pick up a tip to use for your own classroom!
First up, parent newsletters. Yes, these are my least favorite things to put together but they are important. I have tried to streamline this process by making myself a template so that I can quickly get to the point and enter in my information. Here is an example of what one of my newsletters look like (see below). I try to send home newsletters on a monthly basis.
Disclaimer: All students in our video newsletters have turned in a signed permission slip to participate in the video newsletter and it is understood by the parents that this video is shared to others.
Another method of communication is through our BEE binders. BEE stands for Bring Everything Everyday. Basically, each child brings a 3-ring binder at the beginning of the school year. Inside of this binder there is a zipper pouch (for book order money or lunch money), folder, planner, and a few page protectors for a class list, schedule, and spelling ideas.
This BEE binder goes home and back to school every day. Every Monday my students write their week’s important events into their planner along with their spelling words. The parents check this every night and initial it. Their child’s nightly reading homework minutes are also recorded into the BEE binder.
If the parents have an important note or question for me, they write it in the BEE binder. My para checks their BEE binders every morning and gives them a puppy stamp once it is checked.
BEE binders have DECREASED THE AMOUNT OF lost assignments, parents not knowing what’s going on, and unorganized students. I love them.
In my classroom, we use Class Dojo as our main method of classroom management. If you are not familiar with Class Dojo you can check it out HERE. It is web-based and FREE. Here is a link to the parent letter that I send home explaining this to my families. Basically, students are given a dojo point for positive behavior and can lose points for poor choices. Our points collect all month and the top dojo point winner will receive a certificate and prize.
Lastly, I use this blog as a means of storing all of the archives of our newsletters (both written and video). If you click on the families tab at the top of this blog, it will take you to my family communication page. If anything, I can never have a parent tell me that they didn’t know that something was happening in our classroom because there were plenty of opportunities for them to be aware.
I mentioned earlier that I use a variety of means to connect with my families. I know that some of you are probably thinking, why do you put yourself through so much work? Yes, I understand that this takes more time and effort to cover all of my bases and provide several means of communication but to me, it’s worth it. Families deserve to know what is going on at school and let’s face it, families are busier than ever so if I can make their life easier and try extra hard to reach them, they tend to invest more in their child’s education and provide that extra support.