Sunday, January 12, 2014

Week 19 – Communication Essentials #SAVMP

"For this week, I want you to talk about some of your communication essentials and ways that you believe are imperative that we communicate with all of these technologies available."  George Couros

Parents want to know what is happening in their children's lives. 18 years ago when I started teaching parents of our high school students were guaranteed four comments a year from classroom teachers at the end of each marking period and two letters a year from their children's advisers.  Advisers were also expected to call parents within the first month of school to check in and introduce themselves. Today's parents expect more--in an independent school especially. No-longer is it enough for us to tell parent's that we know their child, we need to demonstrate this over and over again.

For students who are struggling, who have IEPs or LSS (depending on your school's lingo), the promise is regular, weekly communication between adviser and parent (and sometimes teacher and parent). But what about students who are doing fine or even excelling? For these parents, our new communication tools are a boon. As a class room teacher I made it a point to send an email out to parents every few weeks sharing where we were in our history studies and giving highlights of student projects, debates, essays or experiments.
Over the course of the year I made it a point to send each parent a brief email about a success enjoyed by their child in class -- leading class discussion, proving a point in a class debate, discovering a new resource in their research process, improving their thesis development. These two types of emails connected parents to our class. As an administrator I will tweet about events at school or to share a picture showing a happening I see in the course of the day. I would never use twitter any other way with parents.

While email works for my happy and general information out to parents, when parents contact me I use another standard. First, I try and respond within 24 hours. If a parent texts (something that rarely happens) I would at least email.
If a parent emails me, I call them. If a parent calls and leaves a message I call and offer to meet in person. If a parent cares enough to call, I need to offer to make it even more personal. Quite often, the parent is satisfied to speak over the phone. I find making the offer of my time in the office conveys my genuine interest. Speaking over the phone allows me to hear the emotion the parent may be feeling--something absent from email. I am able to ask questions in real time and get the information I may need. In person meetings allow for full knowledge of a parent's concerns. I need this knowledge if I am to be an effective partner with parents in their child's education. Being at a boarding school means that not all parents are able to come in, for these parents SKYPE is helpful. For parent's for whom English is not their first language using a translator becomes imperative. We must be able to listen, engage, and understand in order to serve our students and families. The fewer barriers of time, technology, and language between me and my students' parents when they want to talk to me about their children the better.

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