Traditionally, the adults in a child’s life were confined to their respective environments—a teacher was responsible for facilitating learning and delivering discipline in the classroom, while the parent took the lead on those efforts at home. However, expectations have shifted over the past several years.
With a focus on a well-rounded, whole-child approach to education taking hold, along with advancements in technology that have made information more accessible, the divide between school and home has shrunk, and ongoing communication between educators and families is now in demand.
As parents, the new school year brings a new opportunity to challenge ourselves to develop a partnership with the school that centers around our children. There’s clear evidence that both educators and parents want to communicate more with one another, but often the two sides don’t realize how “on the same page” they really are.
For example, parents often feel that schools are trying to communicate but may not be clear about any actions they should take in response to the information that schools share. Schools, on the other hand, may believe that parents aren’t receiving the information, or aren’t very interested, because they don’t receive a response.
The good news for parents? Your child’s school wants you to play a significant role in their education and they’re eager to engage you better! While schools are still working to improve their strategies, there are actions you as a parent can take to start the process of getting more involved. Here’s how to strengthen your engagement with your child’s school:
Establish a Connection
Establishing a meaningful relationship with your child’s teacher is an important way to support a successful school year. Traditionally, relationship-building opportunities happened only in person—back-to-school night, parent-teacher conferences, and other on-site events—but in today’s technology-driven world you can be connected from virtually any location.
By spending as little as five minutes to make introductions and get acquainted—whether it’s in person, a scheduled phone call, video conference or email exchange—you and your child’s teacher can establish a comfort level with one another, opening the lines of communication and leading to a positive year-long relationship.
You and your child’s teacher each have a vision for what the school year will look like, and while you both want the same outcomes—academic and personal growth for your child—your notions of how to get there may vary. Use your first interaction to build an initial connection that will empower you to:
- Ask questions—From helping in the class to helping with homework, your participation can help your learner achieve success. By asking what the teacher expects and discussing where you can add value, you can work as a team to provide support.
- Speak up—If you have specific goals or concerns for your child, make sure the teacher is aware, so they can be addressed to everyone’s satisfaction.
- Keep an open mind—Education looks different today than it did when you were in school, so defining expectations based on your own prior experiences may no longer hold true. By communicating openly with your child’s teacher, you can set expectations that fit the current environment.
Deliver Your Message Appropriately
Carefully choosing where, when and how to communicate is key to success in any parent-teacher relationship! In order to make sure your message is well-received, you should:
- Keep it short—Teachers have a limited amount of time during the school day to respond to calls and emails, so it’s important to keep deadlines in mind and try to avoid same-day requests.
- Buy into your school’s communication system—Though a new app or portal can take some getting used to, using the recommended tools will not only help you develop an open line of communication but will also help you understand the various methods for sharing information so you can avoid redundancies.
- Be concise—Stick to a single topic in your communication. It is also important to pay close attention to being friendly and respectful in digital communication, especially since nonverbal cues (like a smile) aren’t available.
With these three strategies, you can enhance the role you play in your child’s education and work alongside your child’s teachers to improve learning both in school and at home.
Jennifer Larson is co-founder and CEO of Hive Digital Minds, the creators of SchoolBzz. She is a technology entrepreneur, charter public school founder and mother of four school-aged children. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @startupjen.