Prioritizing Your Teaching Life (Part 4) – Parent Communication

Article by Christy Vacchio

Parent Communication
An integral part of teaching students is consistent communication with parents. In the perfect world, a teacher would have parent volunteers and support for everything they are trying to teach. But we don’t live in the 1950’s any more. In most households, both parents work jobs so fitting in time to get in touch with them can seem daunting.

Set Work Hours

Just like any business, a teacher must set work hours and protect them. It is no longer practical to expect to complete all of the work during the school hours. However, it is not necessary to spend all evening making parent phone calls and grading papers. Look at your calendar and set aside 45-60 minutes of time each week and stick to it. Just as a business locks their doors right on time, you must set your timer and stick to your guns. If it’s 15 minutes each night Monday-Thursday or 30 minutes a couple of nights each week, then those times are the times you have set aside for making or returning phone calls to parents or responding to emails.

Notes and Comments

Another efficient way of communicating with parents is to make notes or comments on students work. While this may be more geared to helping students learn or improve their work, parents see this as a positive way of seeing that you care. A teacher who takes the time to make a comment on a piece of writing is a teacher who cares about his or her students and will have more positive relationship with parents.

The best way to find the time to do this is to make comments as students are working. When I worked as a science lab teacher, I would teach 4-5 classes per day, 45 minutes at a time, back to back. We were jam packed with content and labs, but lugging home 150 or more journals each week was not reasonable. During lab activities, as I walked around helping students, I would make comments on mini post-it notes about student progress, insights, behavior issues, or areas of misconceptions. Later, either the same day or the next, while they were writing about what they learned, I would either put the post-it in their journal, quietly conference with the students individually, or write a comment on their explanation when they were done. I even graded some with a rubric as they were writing. That allowed me to have grades right in their notebooks that I could use during grading time and/or parent conferences as evidence of their work and progression throughout the unit of study.

By making these small changes in your day, you will find ways to use the pockets of time you have during independent student work to make your communication with parents and students more efficient and more consistent.

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