The Secrets of Successful Parent - Teacher Communication
As a teacher, finding ways to communicate with parents can be daunting, especially when both parties are busy, in a hurry or tired. But using two-way communication methods to start a conversation with families can create strong parent-teacher relationships and bridge the gap between home and preschool.
Communicating well with parents is an important way for preschool teachers to support children’s learning and well being. Being a good communicator can help you strengthen your partnership with parents, creating a happier and more successful learning environment.
And the more you keep parents informed, the less likely there are to be any misunderstandings that can lead to problems in future.
In its guide for preschool teachers, the US Department of Education says it’s important for teachers to communicate with parents and caregivers because:
- They will have a better understanding of how you are helping to prepare their children for success in school.
- They will learn how well their children are progressing in developing the building blocks of learning.
- They will learn ways to help their children at home.
- You will have a better understanding of children’s background and experiences.
- The children will see that the adults in their life care about them and are interested in their learning and development.
In the United States the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) believes family engagement is an important part of quality childcare. It is incorporating family engagement indicators (such as written communication, parent surveys and activities with families) into state charts. But even with the best intentions, teachers sometimes find it easier to communicate with children than their parents.
Stress, financial worries, time pressures, conflicting values and experiences, language barriers and different views of a child’s needs can get in the way of developing an open, honest and trusting relationship between teachers and parents.
How to develop conversations with parents
So what are the secrets of good parent-teacher communication?
Communication with parents starts from the moment they enter your preschool. Their impressions may be formed by seeing welcome signs in their own language, children’s artwork on display, and photos of children and their families on the wall.
According to the influential sociologist Peter Ludwig Berger, there are two types of communication between teachers and parents: one-way exchanges and two-way exchanges.
One-way exchanges let parents know what’s happening in the classroom through tools such as a letter of introduction, newsletters and reports.
Two-way exchanges are a way of developing a conversation with parents – sharing concerns, working out solutions and celebrating achievements.
Two-way communication methods that preschool teachers have found useful include:
1. Phone calls to families
‘Good news calls’ – or answerphone messages – can be used to recognise a child’s progress or share an anecdote. They’re a fast and easy way to develop a positive relationship with families.
2. Parent-teacher conferences
The key to a successful parent-teacher conference is to listen to parents’ views as well as letting them know how their child is doing. Research has found that parents want to be treated with respect and as equals when communicating with educators. Instead of being distant and professional, concentrate on maintaining eye contact, being empathetic, asking open-ended questions and using everyday language.
Inviting parents to help in the classroom establishes a rapport between parents and preschool teachers, and can be a way to informally raise any early concerns about a child’s behavior or learning. Take the time to ask parents if they have any feedback on the preschool or on ways their volunteer experience could have been improved.
4. Social events
Socializing with parents develops family-teacher relationships and breaks down communication barriers. Children are also likely to feel more supported if they see their parents welcomed into the classroom. Social events that have worked well in preschools include parent nights, park playdates, family picnics, pizza and board games evenings, and family movie nights.
5. Email surveys
Asking families for feedback gives you a better understanding of their expectations of their children’s learning, uncovers small problems before they become big problems, and shows you respect their values and opinions. Survey questions can cover issues such as early learning, school readiness, communication, relationships and support for cultural differences.
And last but not least, parents and teachers can utilize technology to allow communication to occur anywhere, at any time. We explore this in more detail below.
Using technology to engage families
In recent years, new technology has revolutionized ways for teachers to engage in two-way communication with families.
Technologies such as welcome videos for new families and individual private digital portfolios enable teachers and parents to work together to provide children with the best possible start.
Educa, the world's first ‘learning story’ software for early education of its kind, allows families to get involved with a child’s learning from anywhere in the world. It gives preschool teachers a way to document the information they gather about children’s learning and development, and to share the information with the people who matters most in a child’s life. Feedback from parents and teachers over the 6 years Educa has been operating has been uplifting:
Bridging the gap between home and preschool makes families feel more engaged with their children’s development, with many studies suggesting strong parent-teacher partnerships can help children develop positive self-esteem and be motivated to learn.
In the words of a report by researchers AC Baker and Manfredi Petitt for the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “Young children do best – now and later – when they are nurtured within a tightly woven web of love”.
For support with displays at your early childhood education service, read this post on the Educa blog.
Here's a post packed with ideas for using the Educa dashboard to communicate with parents. Parents can respond and comment on messages posted on the dashboard.
Click here for tips on how to write a great newsletter.
For more information about how Educa can transform your preschool, and to sign up for a 30 day free trial - visit our website