When teaching young students, it is essential that the teacher maintains consistently strong, positive and collaborative communication with the parents or guardians of the student throughout the school year. The seventh program standard from the Internship Performance Criteria (IPC) addresses this need: “7. Families and Community – The teacher communicates and collaborates with students, families and all educational stakeholders in an ethical and professional manner to promote student learning.” To me, the most important piece of this standard is the end – “to promote student learning.” It is essential that the good of the child be at the forefront of a teacher’s mind at all times, and it is nearly impossible to work towards the good of the child without clearly and consistently engaging the child’s most important people, parents and/or guardians.
This element of communication can occur in many different ways. Often teachers use email or phone calls to communicate student progress. Sometimes newsletters are sent home. A few teachers even create and manage classroom blogs online, which serve as a forum for teachers, students and families to view and communicate about learning in the classroom and at home. Often teacher-parent communication does not even need to focus on academic progress of the student, but rather can be solely for the purpose of developing and maintaining positive rapport with each other. If a student sees and feels that their teacher has a strong relationship with their parents, and that all adults truly have the student’s own well-being in mind, then the student is significantly more likely to achieve inside the classroom and out.
During my internship family communication has been one of the most difficult pieces of the framework for me to fulfill. I think this is partly because the nature of the internship doesn’t lend itself well to the kind of interaction expected of a teacher (I don’t have access to parent email addresses), but mostly because the communication style of my mentor teacher is extremely laid back. He tends to communicate with families mostly through texting or social media, which is not my preferred method. As a result it feels difficult for me to come in and develop my own relationships in an entirely different forum. I did, however, send a letter of introduction home in my first week of teaching (Student Teacher Introduction Letter PDF). I received positive responses and welcomes from parents (via their students) after sending the letter. I also communicated heavily with parents and families for the sake of organizing a field trip at one point. Then, during the field trip, I made a point of connecting with each of the parent chaperones who joined us on the trip. I was sure to let them know something positive I saw in each of their students, as well as discuss something about their schoolwork. Those brief engagements really did seem to have positive effects on my relationships with both the parents and the students later on.
When I have my own class of students and families next year I definitely plan to make consistent family communication a high priority. I am already thinking about good systems to establish to ensure that I am connecting with the family of every single student at least 3 times per year. Some of the systems I am considering include keeping a family communication notebook, sending home student-generated newsletters, and holding a couple of afterschool events for families and students. I genuinely enjoy getting to know the families of my students, and I look forward to honing this skill as I gain more classroom experience.