Shaunette Parker, PhD, My SC Education
When you make the decision to become involved or better involved in your child’s education, it is important to maintain effective communication with teachers and school leadership. I have found that sometimes there is a great divide between parents and school personnel when it comes to the topic of communication. Parents often complain that their children’s school does not communicate effectively. I often hear parents say that did not receive information about events at school or important announcements. On the other hand, many teachers and staff argue that parents don’t take the initiative to read papers that are sent home with students, or that parents fail to read emails or check the website.
So, who is to blame for miscommunication?
The reality is, no one can be blamed. However, both parents and school personnel could do a better job of communicating with each other. As a parent, I believe it is important to initiate the two-way communication first.
Tip #1 Understand the School’s Communication Policy
Familiarize yourself with the school’s communication policy. Most schools will have a policy in their handbook that outlines the tools and methods the school uses to communicate important information to parents and families. This policy should also provide specific instructions on how parents are to communicate with teachers. For example, many schools may indicate that phone calls to teachers are only allowed before or after school. Or perhaps the school allows parents to ask questions during the teacher’s planning period. Regardless of the policy, making an attempt to work within the school’s preset policy may ensure easy communication between parents and school personnel. If your child’s school does not have a communication policy, that would be a great opportunity for you to connect with the principal and suggest a policy that would benefit everyone.
Tip #2 Familiarize Yourself with Communication Tools
This day and age, schools are using more technology to communicate. Many schools are taking advantage of email, text messages, social media and websites. For many parents, any of these methods will work. However, if none of the schools established communication tools work for you, it is important to identify your preferred communication style. In most cases, schools or individual teachers will be accommodating. Teachers want to make sure you receive the right information.
Tip #3 Begin the Communication Process
Letting your child’s teachers and support staff know that you are open to communication and eager to be involved is really important. At the beginning of each school year, I request time to have a conversation with my children’s teachers or guidance counselors. During this meeting we discuss the different methods that will be used to communicate. To cut down on frustration, I am sure to ask the teacher about acceptable response times. In other words, some teachers need at least 24 hours to respond to emails or phone calls. I also think it is useful to share with the teachers and guidance counselors the type of information I would like to receive. Outside of general school information, I prefer to have regular updates on my children’s behavior and grades. I stress to teachers that the best way for me to support my children’s growth is for me to be aware of changes sooner rather than later. To help in this process, I sometimes contact the teachers with specific questions about my children as opposed to waiting on the typical grade reports. I also stress that it is helpful for me to receive good news. Too often, we only hear from teachers when our children are having problems.
Tip #4 Empower Your Children to Communicate Effectively
Since your children will have regular access to teachers and support staff, it is important to help them develop a communication structure with those individuals. Help them to understand that success in school isn’t just about their grades. I regularly give my children permission to ask their teachers questions directly. When my older children have issues that need to be addressed, I will first work with them to see how they can navigate the problem on their own. We go over the conversation and the questions that they will need to ask. I only step in if my children feel like they were not able to communicate successfully.
The primary goal of effective communication is to ensure your children have all that they need to be successful. When parents and school personnel aren’t communicating well, it shows. Poor communication will begin to effect the overall success of the school.