At Wacom, we’re committed to supporting teachers as you move to online virtual learning. But what about parents? Students learn better when carers are engaged with their education. Their support is a great way to personalise online learning.
Too often, schools feel distant. Parents are reluctant to make contact, or don’t know who to speak to. Most parents want to be actively involved. Developing home-school partnerships is an effective way to make that happen.
We’ve got a range of simple ideas for you to use in your classroom to build relationships with home, improve communication, and encourage parents to take an active role in school life.
What are your expectations?
How do parents know what you want them to do? With young children you might expect them to take part in live lessons and practise together. Older students may need help to get organised and keep up with home learning.
Don’t assume parents will know what you want from them. Be clear and positive. Thank them for their support and offer guidance. Keep it simple and don’t expect too much, after all you’re the trained educator, not them.
Embrace the unique talents parents have, and the opportunity for learning outside the classroom. Don’t just replicate the school experience. Think of ways to incorporate home life into lessons.
Clear communication with parents
Education is full of jargon and acronyms. Parents find it hard to understand things you think are perfectly clear. Stick to straightforward writing that everyone can understand.
Organise your newsletters and emails into sections with subheadings. Use bullet point lists to break up long text. Write in short sentences using an online proof-reader like ProWritingAid, Grammarly, or Hemingway Editor to improve clarity.
Embrace the power of social media to give parents an informal insight into school. Many students refuse to talk about learning, even when they’re learning virtually. Sharing on social media allows parents to feel involved and hear important messages. Just remember to follow your school’s internet safeguarding policies.
How do parents keep in touch?
Decide school-wide rules for communication that everyone will follow. A communication log is essential to keep track, especially if everyone is working remotely. How do parents get in touch? When will they hear back? Set a time limit for replying to messages. Share this with parents so they don’t wonder why you’ve not replied immediately.
Shared platforms like Google Classroom or Class Dojo give parents a way to keep up to date with general class news and information. It’s useful for setting home learning and signposting websites. Decide how you will monitor communication to avoid missing messages from parents.
Many schools rely on email and online platforms, forgetting that some families struggle with poor internet connection or don’t have it at all. How can you measure whether parents are receiving your messages? Having a paper-based option for all communications means parents with limited access to technology won’t be disadvantaged.
Build a positive relationship with parents
Is a phone call home something to dread? Usually teachers get in touch to talk about problems. Turn this around by making positive calls home. Tell parents what their child is doing well and how they are improving. That way, when you do have a problem, it’s easier to talk constructively about it.
School can feel like a faceless organisation. Let them see you’re human. Give them your authentic self and build a rapport.
Spend a few minutes checking parents’ details before making a call. Common mistakes include:
- Assuming all mothers are married
- Automatically calling parents by the same surname as the child
- Calling a mother first without checking if the father is the priority contact
- Not spotting the correct title for parents, such as saying ‘Mrs’ rather than ‘Dr’
Create a schedule for regularly calling parents for a chat. It’s a chance for them to raise issues with you. Planning to make a few calls every day is much easier than working through a long list at the end of a month.
Solving problems together
Parents are essential to keeping students on track. If a learner is struggling, involve them as early as possible. Ask them for ideas and thoughts. They know their child best.
Parents feel frustrated when they think no one is listening to them. Give them a named person to contact with concerns. Talk through plans you’ve made, sanctions, and any problems their child mentions at home.
Remember, students often share a very different account of school incidents with their parents. Avoid angry phone calls by contacting them as soon as possible. Be proactive and reach out to them before they contact you.
Many parents would love to be involved with their child’s education but feel everything has changed since they were at school. The rise of online learning gives you a great opportunity to teach parents about the techniques you use.
- Creating video demonstrations to send home using Loom or Microsoft Stream
- Offering live video call sessions to talk about specific subjects or year groups
- Making how-to guides complete with screen shots and annotations using a Wacom pen tablet
Don’t assume you know what parents want to learn. Survey them to find their interests and availability. Evaluate the attendance at online events and ask for honest feedback. Remember everyone will be nice to your face, so offer ways for them to make their responses anonymous.
Many parents are working during the day. They feel left out of day-to-day life at school. Many will be juggling childcare, work, and caring responsibilities. A rigid, one-size-fits-all solution won’t suit lots of families. A flexible approach means more parents having the opportunity to be engaged.
Be accommodating when you offer training sessions and meetings. Let parents fit school around their lives rather than expecting everything to change to suit school.
There is a direct correlation between parental involvement and student success. That means it’s in everyone’s best interest to get parents involved in home learning. The rise of online teaching offers an opportunity to engage parents in a way we’ve never had before.
Building strong communication with parents means dropping your assumptions about what they want and reaching out to ask them about their needs.
Moving to online teaching? For more support with remote learning, check out our helpful blog posts, written specifically for educators.