According to a recent poll of Really Good Stuff teachers, email is the most used technology based communication tool that is being used in the classroom. It is a simple, free service that allows you to quickly interact with parents throughout the day and during odd hours. If you are new to email, or even if you have been using it for awhile, there are some great ideas that you can incorporate to help your students’ parents stay connected to what is going on in the classroom.
Ways to Use Email to Communicate with Families
At the beginning of the year ask parents how they prefer to receive their class newsletter. Some parents may want a hard copy to hang on the refrigerator, but many will prefer an electronic copy. Instead of creating a plain email newsletter, take it to a new level. There are free email newsletter programs online that allow you to use templates that are colorful and fun. Make your classroom newsletter stand out by using one of these eye-catching freebies.
Email is a great way to send out weekly reminders about homework, special project due dates and items that need to be returned to school. You can create a generic update, blind copy the parent mailing list for your class, and send it out within a matter of minutes. If you need to send a personal message along with the reminder, just copy and paste the reminder into an email and send a separate note to the parent who needs the information.
For some students, instant communication with mom and dad can transform negative behavior into a new attitude. Some teachers have a series of warning steps that end with an email, that the student and teacher write together, home to mom and dad describing the negative behavior. In many cases, mom or dad will respond quickly with encouragement for better behavior. This simple act of emailing makes the student instantly accountable and ensures that parents know what is going on in the classroom. It is always best to discuss this system with parents at the beginning of the year, so that they know what to expect and are not rudely surprised by an email at home or work.
Basic, everyday communication is important between parents and teachers and email provides that. Just knowing that they can address their concerns at anytime is comforting for many parents. It is also helpful for teachers to be able to give progress updates and share funny or exciting things with parents that will help them feel connected to their child during the day.
Before jumping headfirst into giving out your email and encouraging communication, set up some guidelines at the beginning of the year. Only give out your school email address, or a separate email address that you use only for class communications if your school does not have email available for you. Let parents know that you generally check your email at the beginning and end of the school day only, so that they are not waiting for instant replies. Always be mindful of your tone and language. Unlike face to face communication, and even telephone conversations, where you can hear the inflections in the other person’s voice, email is a blank slate. Your own perception of language influences the way that you read emails, just as a parent’s perception influences her reading of the email. A parent who is defensive may misconstrue a very matter-of-fact email as being aggressive or rude, while someone who is not defensive will often see it as facts as it is intended. Being mindful and conscientious about what you write and how you write it can save you from misunderstandings.
Email use is a natural means of communication in today’s classroom. Do not be afraid to branch out and try it if you have never used it before. By opening the lines of communication with your students’ parents, you create a classroom that is more closely knit and supportive. As any teacher knows, building good rapport with parents early on is one of the keys to a successful school year.
How do you use email with your students’ parents? What are some of the successes and failures you have had with email communication to parents? Share with us!