Friday, February 12, 2010

Improving Parent-Teacher Communication

Parents are the most valuable players in a child's education. What they do to support a child's learning can have a tremendous impact on his or her success in school. Yet this is one relationship that often struggles to get off the ground. Parents and teachers both have a variety of past experiences, sometimes negative, that can make them apprehensive about contacting one another. Ultimately, the child loses in this situation.

In order to facilitate clear communication between both parties, it's important to outline expectations. Here are some guidelines that I've pulled from my (very-much-still-under-construction) classroom website.

What I expect from parents...

1. Honor our limited instructional time. We have a tremendous amount of material to cover, and the year will go by quickly. Please make sure that your child arrives to school on time each morning. Also, if at all possible, please try to avoid picking up your child prior to dismissal or scheduling appointments during the school day.

2. Maintain regular communication. You are the most important partner in your child's education. I try to make myself available at all hours, and I'm happy to provide multiple methods of correspondence. If, at any point, you have a question, concern, or comment, please do not hesitate to let me know.

3. Talk to your child about school each day. Find out more about what topics are being studied and make positive connections with your interests and experiences whenever possible. Children are more motivated when they have adult role models that share similar interests with class material.

4. Provide a structure, space, and routine for completing homework each night. At a minimum, your child is expected to read 30 minutes every night. You can check other homework assignments and information elsewhere on my website.

5. Enforce a regular bedtime. Children need far more sleep than adults, and interruptions to a normal sleep schedule can sap a child's energy during school.

6. Read with your child on a regular basis. Children benefit from both listening to adult readers and reading to an adult. Consider sharing a favorite book with your child or reading a new book together.

7. Visit the public library. The public library has thousands of children's books in multiple genres and far more resources than we have available at school. A public library card is free to you and your child, so please sign up and visit at least bi-weekly if you don't already.

8. Encourage your child to take responsibility for his or her learning. While I provide multiple sources for information about school events, upcoming assignments, etc., your primary source for information should be your child. Monitor your child to make sure that he or she is recording all assignments, preparing for tests, and completing all homework. You'll quickly learn that I am not the type of teacher that provides "busy work," so it's absolutely vital that your child stays on top of all assignments. Work together to create a schedule for larger assignments and projects.

9. Get involved. There are several different ways you can become involved in your child's education, and it sends an important message about how much you value school. Join the PTA and attend meetings. Volunteer to help in our classroom before, during, or after school -- there are always projects that could benefit from an extra set of adult hands. Don't be shy about seeking out these opportunities. I'll regularly update or classroom calendar and the link How You Can Help to notify you of upcoming events.

10. Respect my time. I am more than happy to accommodate your schedule to ensure that you can attend conferences and stay involved with your child's education. If you make an appointment for a conference, especially on an official parent-teacher conference day or significantly before or after school, please notify me as soon as possible if you'll need to reschedule. It's very frustrating to me when I stay late after school or turn away other parents requesting specific conference times only to have a parent not show up. I don't mind rescheduling, but please notify me in advance so I can make the most productive use of my time.

What you can expect from me...

1. Regular communication. I send home a weekly newsletter that describes several class activities, major assignments, and important dates. I will also be updating this website and our class calendar with homework assignments and important events on a daily basis. When events happen in school that merit your attention -- both positive and negative -- I will call or email. My preferred method of correspondence is email because it helps me keep track of everything, but I'm more than happy to discuss matters on the phone or in person as well. I want you to feel well informed about what's happening in our classroom, and if a method of contact isn't working out for you, please let me know.

2. Transparency in grading and expectations. I will update your child's grades through the online parent portal at least once a week. When major assignments are coming up, I will provide study guides, checklists, and/or rubrics to inform you about how the assignment will be evaluated.

3. Meaningful assignments. I want learning to be fun, yet challenging. I see textbooks as important resources that can support our learning, but they're not the primary source for our learning. As a result, students are often given assignments that draw on other resources and materials. They'll be doing far more reading and writing tasks and problem solving activities than worksheets.

4. Respect for individual learning styles. I work very hard to create assignments that are appropriately challenging for all students. I recognize that some students may need more or less time to learn something, and students learn things in different ways. I try to offer many different learning opportunities that address these individual needs. If, at any time, you feel like your child's needs are not being met, please talk to me so that we can revise our plans.

5. Prompt feedback. I'm typically able to grade tests and quizzes within 24 hours. Projects, especially ones that involve student writing, require about a week. Homework assignments vary. I don't grade every homework assignment. Sometimes I grade for accuracy, other times I grade for completion. Students won't know in advance how their homework will be graded because I want them to treat all assignments seriously.

6. Accessibility. I value any opportunity that I can get to have parents involved in education. If the parent-teacher conference schedule doesn't meet your needs, I will be more than happy to arrange another time to talk. I can be available before or after school. I'm also open to teleconferencing by phone or Skype in the evenings. I make my contact information available because I want you to feel comfortable using it. Feel free to call me on my cell phone any time before 10:00pm. If I'm not available, I'll call you back as soon as I can.

Teachers: How are you communicating expectations to parents and building their support? What ideas need to be added to this list?

Parents: What other kinds of information would you want from your child's teacher? What more can/should be done to help you get involved?


  1. I love your recommendations about reading and visiting the library together, but I wish that more teachers would familiarize themselves with children's literature as well. I know that time and resources are often limited these days, but it's so important for students to have multiple opportunities to read just for the fun of it. If children are surrounded by really great books and other reading materials, at home AND in the classroom, they're more likely to develop a love of reading.

    Thanks for a great post!

  2. I agree -- it's incredibly important for teachers to be familiar with what's out there so they can recommend books to others. I wish I could read it all myself, but between professional reading, personal reading, academic reading, and classroom reading, there just aren't enough hours in the day! I just read as much as I can and rely on some great children's lit blogs to familiarize myself with what else is out there. Then, even if I haven't read it yet, it has at least made my radar screen. I think my biggest problem is that I can buy books so much faster than I can read them! ;-)

    Thanks for the comment!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...