Step by step guide: 11 great ways to build parent-teacher communication
It is no secret that parents play an enormous role in their children's education while at home. In daily interactions with their family, children look up to their parents as their first educators.
Parents' significance in education has been put under the spotlight by the latest pandemic, which has seen homes become the central location for schooling. However, the active involvement of parents is not limited to this particular period in time.
In a recent interview on parent's involvement published by Forbes, Alejandro Gac-Artigas, the Founder and CEO of Springboard Collaborative has said:
"Parents are the experts on their children. Whereas teachers change annually, parents accumulate a wealth of knowledge about their children as learners. Moreover, they are uniquely positioned to read with their kids in a one-on-one setting. There is no smaller classroom than a family's living room, and there is no better way to personalise instruction than through a parent. After all, what could be more personal that a parent and child sharing a book at bedtime? Teachers, on the other hand, are the experts on instruction."
This is in reference to US education, but the concept it expresses is universally true and relevant to parents’ and teachers’ role in the UK too.
Parenting comes with many responsibilities, and parents wanting to fulfil their role at their full potential, must be closely connected with the environment experienced by the child outside of the family: the school.
Effective parent-teacher communication is at the core of a pupil's healthy upbringing.
Why are parent-teacher relationships important?
Parent-teacher relationships influence students' wellbeing and performance. Both parties can gain significantly from the relationship, and ultimately the child benefits greatly from it.
The benefits of good parent-teacher relationships
For advancing academic development and wellbeing of students, schools and families must leverage the advantages that good parent-teacher relations can offer.
On the home and family side of the spectrum, there are all the things parents know about their child around their social development with siblings and peers, their behaviour during family activities, their responsiveness and ability to adapt to new situations.
On the school side, there are all the things teachers know about how well the same child performs in assessments, how he or she behaves with other students and within the school setting, etc.
The exchange of information from both sides can be combined to create a fuller understanding of pupils and then direct them more efficiently into improvement and growth.
This guide wants to offer useful and practical tips on building and maintaining a positive parent-teacher relationship through effective communication, and guidance during these times characterised by the outbreak of COVID19.
11 Ways for teachers to communicate with Parents
1. Laying the groundwork for a solid connection
When we set about building a new relationship with anyone, our first action is to connect. The first connection is directly related to the first impression we make on the other person. It is the first tool we use to commence a dialogue, establish a basis of trust, define the path along which all future interactions will move, and set the pace and frequency of all communications to come.
Therefore, the first connection between teachers and parents must be solidly forged and happen smoothly.
One of the most crucial things, at this stage, is to choose the right "connector" or communication channel; and in the digital age, the choice could not be more varied.
Teachers and parents now have at their disposal mobile phones, laptops, desktop computers, and tablets in addition to all the more traditional means of communication such as in-person meetings, conferences, landline phone calls etc.
We can say that thanks to digitalisation, we can connect more frequently and with the variety of tools that this offers, schools can select what the best way for teachers to communicate with parents is.
2. Sharing of information and feedback
As above mentioned, the sharing of information in parent-teacher communication is fundamentally important. It keeps the parent up to date with the child's school performance and gives the teacher an understanding of the child's background and living context.
Parents can have the possibility to intervene and be more involved in the school curriculum, if they have access to reports, assessments, test results and feedback. They can help out with homework and manage their children's time by organising their school tasks and assignments.
Teachers can be made aware of and prepare for changes in pupils' living situation (for instance if the family is moving house or changes in parent’s marriage status) that may affect attendance and/or performance. They can keep up with the student's health conditions, including physical and mental wellbeing.
3. Providing useful advice
Parent-teacher communication can also be seen as a way to exchange advice.
Once the information is shared, the advice can be more relevant and effectively targeted.
Parents can use the chosen communication tools to advise teachers on the best ways to attain good behaviour from the child.
In the same spirit, teachers can advise parents on which parts of the homework the student needs extra help with, and so on.
4. Reciprocal listening
In all relationships, listening is the most welcomed skill we can bring. Each individual has a need to be understood.
Listening must be intended as paying attention to all concerns, preoccupations and praises that each person expresses. It can be done at many different levels and not interpreted as just in its auditory sense.
It helps to perceive not only the facts that are being told, but how these are being related, the use of language and tone. In other words, if careful listening is adopted in all communications, more in-depth insights into the other person are to be gained; this adds immense value to the relationship.
Modern technology means that words will not be lost or forgotten because they're safely written and saved in an email or message. Misunderstanding can be reduced, because conversations can be re-read, tracked and revisited. Every detail can be picked up, focused on and clearly understood.
5. Targeting messages
In communication with parents, the focus should always be on the pupil.
Having selected a communication channel, be this email or phone message, teachers should then focus on the best way to express any concerns on assessment results, behaviour, attendance and all questions that may occur.
For greater clarity and to ensure focus on the conversational topic or reason for communication, each communication with parents should adopt a different form and be filed accordingly. For instance: assessment results can be saved in the form of reports and sent via email or published onto a secure parent portal, while invitations to school activities and gatherings can be sent via message or push notification.
6. Offering support
Parents and teachers should be supportive of one another for the child to achieve personal and academic progress.
Therefore, as an institution, the school should support parent-teacher relationships and help them be built and maintained. The school can provide physical settings for traditional conferences, sporting events, and parties and acquire the right tools and technology to facilitate and encourage the communication.
7. Organising and managing notifications
For the communication with parents to be effective, every record should be stored and organised.
Reporting on assessments and/or behaviour should be shared in timely and accurate forms.
A logistic system should be used to manage payments for school clubs, meals, donations and trips.
Announcements and reminders should be targeted and sent out to the group of parents concerned.
8. Involving and engaging
Effective parent-teacher relationships mean that each party feels as involved as possible in the student's life.
Teachers should include in their notifications how the pupil performs in group activities, clubs, and parties and provides feedback on academic performance.
On the other hand, parents should notify teachers of new family events, incidents, or any changes to the normal flow of things.
The school should also organise events and activities to involve parents and encourage their participation.
9. Investing in frequency
Any relationship in which communication is frequent stands a better chance of success.
Keeping a diary will help keep track of when the last communication occurred and prompt when the next one is due. The temporal gap between communications should be kept short. Bromcom MIS gives ability for users to record all communications with parents for this very reason.
According to an article published by The New York Times in August 2020:
"The most successful relationships between families and educators are rooted in routine exchanges that go beyond periodic parent-teacher conferences."
10. Aiming for consistency
Once the best communication channels and methods are established, the relationship should be consistently managed and nurtured through them.
For instance, if it is apparent that a parent is more responsive when contacted via email than via a text message, then notifications, if possible, should be regularly sent via email.
11. Choosing a single system
Ideally, all the described steps should be managed through one single system or platform.
Using different platforms for different communications and channels will result in extra workload and likely communication breakage and disruption. It could confuse parents and cause them to miss important notices and updates. Bromcom keeps it all together.
Managing all communication, such as report sharing, notifications of events, invites, and other updates, will ultimately smoothen the handling of parent-teacher relationships.
How can Bromcom help build and maintain parent-teacher communication?
Having worked with schools across England and Wales for over thirty years, Bromcom understands that teachers already face an increasing set of challenges when it comes to meeting all of the requirements for completing curriculum coverage and meeting national benchmarks.
Parents too have other occupations and responsibilities to manage other than just their children's schooling; and on top of that, they are now having to deal with increasing concerns around their children's health because of the threat posed by the recent coronavirus.
So, with both parents and teachers fronting the many obstacles that their respective roles bring, how can they combine forces to create more profound, and constructive relationships that will eventually benefit students?
At Bromcom, we strive to provide a solution that precisely addresses this question.
A Cloud-MIS with an integrated app for managing parent-teacher communications, file sharing and accounting
Bromcom offers an online tool called MyChildAtSchool that enables parents to view their child's profile and performance at school in real-time.
Parents can access the tool simply by connecting to the internet and via a web browser or downloading its companion App (available on Android or iOS).
The tool visualises and tracks real-time data, records of attendance, behaviour, assessment, letters, feedback, and other important documents, so that parents stay always informed.
In this way, parents are able to keep abreast of their child's progress and intervene when issues arise. Any potential truancy problems can be detected early and prevented with parental assistance.
In the same way, access is granted to the school shop, making it possible to transact online payments for anything from trips, clubs and meals to uniforms, donations and any additional product the school may offer. This reduces the administrative burden on the school office dramatically, and provides a secure and fast cashless payment system.
Scott Biggs,Senior Leader and MIS Consultant at Protean, has said:
“Through the parent portal/parent app, the Bromcom MIS has been able to use communications with parents to praise the work children do as well as remind them about their attendance. This has been huge with users positively feeding back on the impact it has made. Clear and open communication using the MIS system has really improved the collaboration between school and home.”
Parents payment system
Bromcom offers an online payments option integrated within its platform.
This includes options for payments with deposits, instalments, part-pay and running balances. It also enables the management of a range of payment types, refunds and vouchers, including PayPoint and offline payments directly in school.
Parents are always kept informed and can keep a log of their balances by receiving reminders for all due or overdue payments.
MyChildAtSchool also includes a Personal Account Settings option that parents can use to update their personal details, like change of address or phone number. The updated information can be then viewed by administration staff and accepted onto the live system, having followed any validation process they may have.
It integrates a feature for Announcements that allows the school to communicate with all parents or focus on a selected audience based on student groups, and enables the attachment of documents.
For tracking lessons and schedules, parents can access the Academic Calendar View. The calendar will contain information about which lesson children are expected to attend and with which teacher.
Why should schools choose Bromcom to support parent-teacher relationships?
Bromcom's portal has been designed with parents and teachers in mind. It is easy to use and access for all parties.
The latest school census data, as published by Bring More Data at the end of 2020, see Bromcom confirm its place for the third consecutive year as the first choice of Cloud MIS provider for secondary schools across England and Wales. At the same time, more and more primary schools are switching to Bromcom to benefit from its advantages given by the cloud hosting, capabilities and cost-effectiveness.
The platform offers schools the possibility to manage all communication through one single portal accessible through the same site or app.
At Bromcom, we value communication and relationships with all schools. We listen to the school's ideas, their concerns and questions, and we've developed our product on the solid base of this ongoing relationship. Because we understand the importance of relationships, we have come up with a dedicated parent communication tool that helps schools in their effort to create a bridge that connects family life with academic work, so that students can always be looked after and sustained through their growth.
We constantly evolve and adapt our platform to meet new demands, while offering a reliable and accessible system with integrated functions and an excellent user interface at a competitive cost, that will prove value for money over time.
Would you like to know more about how we can help manage parent-teacher communications or about any other feature we offer?
The intention behind this guide was to answer some of the basic questions you may have when it comes to managing parent-teacher relationships. However, Bromcom can do so much more to help organise all your school's data, including managing finances and supporting school improvement.
You can find more detailed information and explore all our tools on our website. And if you'd like to know more about us, just drop us a line or call us, we are always happy to help.
7 January 2021 / Liza Adebisi