Monday, January 26, 2015

Parent Communication when you have 500 Kids.


For those of you who don't know I teach over 500. Each one of those students has a parent who desperately wants communication. It can sometimes feel like all you do is communicate with parents. If you let it, it can become very overwhelming to deal with all of the parent communication. The parents of my students are awesome and(but) very involved in their children's lives. I have found for them, the more mass communication you have the easier it is to deal with the one on one communication that also comes up. For any type of communication you do, I highly recommend you keep a record. This is not only great for your observations (it's a TKES standard in my state) it also helps when parents say they did not know about an event (being able to pull up the dates of the mass communication really helps).

Mass Communication

There are three basic forms of mass communication I use and then several secondary forms for the really important communications.

Letters home

Obviously the easiest form of mass communication is paper letters home. I keep hoping that we will soon be able to move beyond paper copies home but it is a very slow process. I have found that often the letters never make it home or they get lost in the shuffle. Parents get so many pieces of paper home that often what I send never makes it to the parents attention even if it makes it into their house. Still while this is not the most effective form of communication, when there is a dispute about what is going on parents like to see a copy "what was sent home." I recommend having one day a week when parents know that important information is coming home. That way they know that they need to pay more close attention to papers that day. For us that day is Monday. I also recommend putting any information on colored paper (the brighter the better) you want anything that will help catch parent's eye or stand out in a sea of white notebook paper. If you don't already do this I would highly recommend starting a weekly/monthly newsletter. This will be something that parents come to expect and will look to for information about what is going on in school. This is especially great Fine Arts classes who often have performances and community events coming up every month. Being able to communicate dates to parents easily is very important.

Call Out

If your school is like mine you have a way to send mass phone calls to all students. We have started a thing called Tune in Tuesdays. Every Tuesday we do a mass call out with all of this week's announcements. This is great because it lets parents know what day and time to tune in so that they can know quickly what is going on in the school. I usually just submit the same letter I sent home to be read on those days. Make sure you keep a record of any time you utilize this service since there will be no obvious record of this type of communication.

Stop whatever you are doing right now and sign up for Remind.com if you are not already using this service you have no idea what you are missing. This is the best parent communication service ever! I love this app. Remind provides a fake number for parents to text to sign up to receive text messages or emails for you. This means that you get to keep your personal cell phone number safe but still have the ease to use modern communication. I have also found that parents are much more likely to read a text message or email. Remind is also great because you can attach a digital copy of the letter you sent home. This allows parents to have a copy of the letter on their phone when they need to refer to dates and such. Seriously this is quickly becoming my favorite form of communication. Please sign up and try it too. You will love it!

Labels/ Stickers

Desperate times call for desperate measures. For awhile we were having a horrible time with our mass communication. Students just were not taking the letters home, we had not discovered the wonderful Remind.com yet and parents were getting tired of listening to our Tune in Tuesdays. To ensure that parents knew very important information (upcoming performance date, time, and attire) we would use shipping labels to create stickers for the students. This worked so well for our younger students. Parents could simply read the sticker stuck to the shirt to get the information they needed. The stickers were a hit or miss with the older kids. I honestly had one student ask me for information that was literally stuck to his chest one day_ He hadn't bother to read the sticker that was stuck to him. If you need to get information home quickly though labels might be the way to go. We use the Avery 2inch X 4 inch labels and can fit a ton of information in a small space. You can also customize each label to a particular student using mail merge. I will have more information on how to do this in a later post.

Website

This is one form of communication that I wish I used more. I have this very cute website set up. It tells parents the standards I teach and a quick summary of all my lessons, there are a few cute photos. On the whole though I very rarely touch my website. I know I should use it more, I know it would be very effective but I just haven't. If you have any tips on how to use a website, I would love to hear it!

Marquee

We have a small marquee outside the school to advertise events. I use this to advertise performance, awards nights, and deadlines. This is very helpful since we have a ton of parents who come out and sit in the car lane.

County website and tv channel

Once again these are usually only used to advertise dates. This is especially great for our big productions.

Google Drive

These are just a few of the ideas that I have used. I just read an article here about a teacher who uses Google Drive for parent communication. She had some wonderful ideas! I personally have only used Google Forms to conduct parent surveys and online applications (I teach at a magnet school that is open to all students in the community, not just those zoned for the area). I have loved using forms, and this article has really inspired me to try using more of Google Drive next year!

How do you communicate with the masses, is there anything on here that I left off?