Sometimes, communication with families is just about sharing information – details about school community events, policies, fundraisers, etc. Today, there are so many communication strategies to choose from. Why not apply the principle of differentiation in order to ensure that school/class messages are received in a timely and balanced way by the greatest number of families possible?
A Note to School
I do my absolute best to stay informed and aware of what is happening at school and in my children’s classrooms. I love it when messages are first delivered orally by my child and then followed up with a quick note or email. On the other hand, I’m less than enthused to find important notes buried deep under the squished banana at the bottom of the school bag.
I know that you are experimenting with different ways to reach us and keep us informed. I’m wondering if we can open a conversation on what works best?
trying to be,
an informed parent
Today’s availability of technology and communication methods (e.g., newsletter, note, phone, email, website, twitter, apps, etc.) invite us to reconsider how we share information with families. Asking What communication strategy works best? or How can we best reach you? demonstrates respect for families and opens a necessary conversation about communication that can form the foundation for dialogue about families’ hopes, dreams, successes, and struggles.
- How do you share information with families? Do you use a variety of strategies including paper, telephone, email, oral transmission from child to family?
- Do your communication strategies respond to the strengths and preferences identified by families?
- In your communication and information sharing, are you using language that is both friendly and easily understood, and not loaded with edu-speak?
- Do you provide translators/translations if necessary? Do you incorporate oral and visual forms of communication in addition to traditional print?
Effective communication and information sharing strategies recognize that just because the school has sent home a message in one way does not mean that every family got it. The good news is that the harder we try, and the more we diversify our communication, the more likely the message is to be received. This is not to suggest that every family needs a completely different strategy, but instead that it is necessary to find an effective balance that meets the needs of both family and school.
Some families prefer the face-to-face interaction that comes with picking their child up at school, others appreciate a quick phone call home. Some prefer a quick note in a child’s agenda, while others are easily reachable by email. And then there are those who eagerly check the school/classroom blog/website; these families will tell you that it’s even better if automatic updates are generated and sent directly to their inbox. The trick is in anticipating the multitude of strategies that might meet the ever-increasing demands placed on today’s families. As you envision your communication plan, make sure to check your school and district policies regarding email, website, and other forms of social communication. Schools might consider the following:
Invite families to identify their preferred communication strategies. Send a quick survey home to families that enables them to discuss and select the most effective way to communicate or share information. Try to match the communication strategies of the school/class with those preferred by families. Realize that there are times when communication strategies vary with the day-to-day life of a family.
Involve children and youth in oral information sharing strategies. Schedule assemblies or discussions that highlight the importance of some messages and assign students the first level of contact with families. You’d be surprised how much information really does make it home… it might be a little bit like a game of telephone, but a quick follow up by email or a note in the agenda serves as important clarification.
Engage children and youth in the construction and maintenance of a traditional class newsletter that could easily be posted to a website or blog. Post student work and summaries alongside important information; this keeps families aware of the day-to-day life in the classroom as well as keeping them informed. Recognize the necessary balance of showing and telling in order to accommodate those families whose linguistic needs do not fall into mainstream English. Offer a multiple access option (digital or paper) recognizing that not all families have access to computers or other digital means.
Explore communication strategies that blend the old and the new technologies for both school and class messages. For example,
- Synrevoice School Connects enables schools to send phone calls, email, and SMS text messages to families, regarding any kind of school related event.
- Remind is a free service that lets teachers send one-way messages via SMS or email to everyone involved with the class. Letters of introduction and sign-up are on the website.
- Instragram – is a free app that allows you to snap and share pictures of current projects, student work, and displays.
Differentiated and inclusive communication may require a little more organization to set up and establish, but over time, it will simply become one more thing we do to enhance our partnership with families.
How do you share information with your families? Which of these have you tried successfully? What can you add?