One of the toughest issues facing my school (and district for that matter) is parent communication. Yesterday in a meeting after school our leadership team discussed ways to have more parents involved in what we are doing. Meaning, we offer nights several times a year were parents and students are invited in to discuss gangs, drugs, achievement, relationships, lots of different issues that parents might have questions about and that the school and guests can provide answers or resources to. So we have done a few of these meetings this year with very low turn out. When we have open houses we generally have very low turn out. Even sporting events and music concerts are poorly attended. We are currently examining how we get this information out to parents. What are we doing and how we could do it better.
Teachers face those same issues in their classroom. Disseminating information home can be tough. However, educators have come up with some very creative ways to increase parent communication, thereby, hopefully increasing involvement.
The topic for #edchat this week was: What methods or techniques do we use to increase parent communication? There were tons of great ideas share, both of successes and failures. Here is just a little of what was said:
- Problem with number of parents suffering from their own bad school experiences. Have to get them to trust school.
- If parent's are not notified that their child is having a problem, they are not being provided an opportunity to correct things.
- Highest hurdle is gaining the trust of the parents... No one who doesn't trust you wants to communicate with you.
- Some things we deal with here - no phone hooked up, kids aren't reliable to take paper home, and they have no internet connection.
- Use Edmodo & allow parents to join w/ code. Can participate in discussions & keep up w/ all class activities.
- Some teachers think, "Why do I do these newsletters/website updates? People don't read them." If ONE parent gets informed, it's a win!
- I see kids do smart things so many times each day. I need to make opportunities to share these successes more often with parents.
- Connecting the parent to the school is the school's responsibility, not the parent's.
- Be flexible and use a variety of ways to contact parents. One way doesn't work for everyone, we must differentiate how we connect.
I encourage you to read the archive
of the conversation so really get a grasp for what people were saying.
Here are a few of my thoughts...
First things first. Parental communication is vital to the school community.
In this day and age it is unreasonable for a school to not have a website. And these websites need to be living beings, updated regularly with new information and changes. And now that Google has given us the ability to subscribe to a page even if it does not have an RSS feed
there really isn't a reason that schools should not be using that as a major portal of communication for their community. Many (including myself) would argue that teachers need to have their own home on the web. Whether it is provided by the district or not. There are so many great, free, and easy services to use, I find it difficult to find a reason why not to do it.
One of the more interesting suggestions last night was Facebook fan pages for schools. Many said that they provided one more place to get that information out and I tend to agree it is a great idea. Instead of teachers using personal pages the school could have their own presence on Facebook and each teacher, if they wanted, could also have a place there that is separate from their personal space. This might help to allow districts to open up this resource that is often blocked and use it for an education purpose. And why not have a Fan page. Facebook, for a few days was the most visited place on the web in February. Many, many people have them. Tap in to the students, parents, alumni and the community to get your message out and build support for your school.
Twitter is another resource that could be used. I am a big advocate of this. Since the messages have to be 140 characters or less they have to be concise and to the point. Parents and the community can choose to follow and get instantly updated via text message or subscribe to the RSS feed and get updates in a reader. Again, it's yet another way to get the information out.
The point of all this is using as many of the available resources to get your message out. Are you having a parent meeting? One of the things I suggested yesterday at my meeting would be to Ustream. Easy and free. Set up your webcam, account and broadcast. The sessions could be recorded and played anytime afterwards for those that could not attend. Does your school have a blog? Another quick and easy way to get the information out. How about email lists? What about text message blasts? Automated phone calls? Or a simple phone call home from the teacher. There are so many ways.
And that is the point. Schools and teachers need to use all available channels to get that information out there. While the note pinned to the kids shirt worked in the past we have moved on. Simply sending home a packet once a week or even daily just does not cut it. We have to use the web, Facebook, Twitter, text messages, all need to be used together to spread information.
Anthony Robins once said, "To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Everyone gets their information different ways. Teachers and schools need to begin to understand that and consider how they are getting the information out if if there is a way to improve.