Administrators, teachers, and parents all have to work together to create and maintain a healthy, productive learning environment for students. Good communication skills are a crucial part of creating an environment where everyone can thrive.
But sometimes creating that communication bond is easier said than done because there is often a disconnect between teachers, administrator, and parents, says Lee Watanabe Crockett, president of Global Digital Citizen Foundation, an organization that helps educators develop modern learning environments in their schools.
Here are a few tips that can help facilitate communication among these three parties who all share a common goal — providing the best possible educational outcomes for students.
1. Communicate Regularly
Relationships don’t have a chance to form with intermittent contact. By communicating regularly with each other, administrators, teachers and parents have the opportunity to form partnerships in the students’ education. In doing so, they will feel more connected to the school and to each other, says the team at educational communication platform SimplyCircle.
Communication isn’t only about talking through the bad things. It’s also about sharing ideas and stories to form bonds with each other and create a positive educational environment for everyone.
2. Keep an Open-Door Policy
Consistent communication and open dialogue require regular access. An open-door policy helps increase collaboration between administrators, teachers, and parents, as well as promote mutual trust and respect.
As a teacher, Jake Miller appreciates when a school’s principal honors such a policy. That open door signals to teachers, parents, and students that no matter how busy the administrator is they are available anytime to talk to those teachers. And, Miller notes, if nobody is walking through the door to talk, administrators should be going to them.
Open door also means easy accessibility through mobile devices. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to have their hands and eyes on their mobile devices at all times. Rather, it’s about creating an atmosphere that encourages communication through accessibility.
3. Offer Opportunities for Feedback
To gather productive feedback, administrators and teachers need to make it easy for themselves and parents to communicate regularly.
One way to easily invite feedback is through surveys. Surveys can be distributed at any time and provide good, insightful data that may not be relayed in conversations.
Performance questionnaires are also useful for administrators and teachers because they can be distributed and answered without the pressure of a formal evaluation. Administrators and teachers should both encourage these evaluations regularly, says the team at Schoolrunner. The feedback can be insightful and used to make improvements.
4. Set Objectives
Communication is good, but communication with a purpose is better.
John Halloran, founder of teacher communication tool SnappSchool, advises teachers, and by association administrators, to set objectives for communications. He advises them to create conversations that advance an agenda, not simply meet a requirement for outreach.
An objective provides a practical, concrete basis for communication. It gives the message a clear purpose.
5. Follow a 24-Hour Rule
People have come to expect instant gratification in communication. Call it a side effect of the digital revolution.
To meet this expectation and still allow for breathing and thinking space, Cheryl Paull, principal at Bradford Academy in Michigan, advises administrators to respond to teacher and staff outreach within 24 hours. This is great advice that teachers can also follow when communicating with parents.
A timely response is important to keeping that line of communication open, Paull notes, even if the answer isn’t immediately clear or available. What’s most important is acknowledging the communication.
6. Use Various Forms of Communication
Thanks to technology, schools have a plethora of options for establishing and maintaining a connection with each other and parents. There are a number of different digital tools that can be harnessed to keep communication flowing, and here is how some teachers are using them:
- Newsletters. Elementary teacher Alexis Sanchez believes in the power of newsletters, and sends one a month to parents to give them a sneak peak into her classroom and encourage families to continue learning at home.
- Blogs. Upper elementary teacher Brian Crosby believes his blog is one of the strongest teaching tools he has been able to use for his classroom. He includes student projects, student videos and STEM lessons and activities.
- Facebook groups. Bethene Songer, a kindergarten teacher, decided to start a Facebook group for her class as a way to communicate with parents because most parents already use it on a consistent basis. It’s a way to reach them where they are.
- Mobile apps. First-grade teacher Jessica Meacham uses the app Bloomz to communicate with parents, but she advises teachers to search out the best app for their needs.
And, of course, a phone call is always an option. What’s most important is to learn which approaches are most effective for promoting regular, honest communication.
7. Establish Trust
Trust is essential to honest communication, and Vicki Zakrzewski, education director at the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, suggests trust in school boils down to psychological safety.
She explains that schools must foster environments where people feel free to speak their minds, to openly and honestly discuss what is and isn’t working, to make collective decisions, to take risks and to fail. This type of environment breeds the level of safety that leads to trust between leaders, teachers and parents.
So, how can everyone work together to build that level of trust for open communication in schools? Richard Buford, education consultant and school principal, offers some ideas to establishing trust in schools:
- Communicate clearly, openly and honestly.
- Give timely, appropriate and honest feedback.
- Put the needs of others first.
- Celebrate the successes.
The Goal of Communication is Student Success
Administrators, teachers, and parents all have to work together to create a learning environment that encourages student success. To do this, everyone must be able to openly communicate with each other.
That’s not always easy. This requires everyone to make a commitment and dedicate time to communicating with each other. In doing so, administrators, teachers, and parents can all work towards their common goal: Providing students with the best education possible.