Using Technology for Better Parent Engagement

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 -- Scott Sterling

Teachers enter every school year promising to make parental engagement a top priority. Then, sometime between having a stack of papers to grade and lesson plans to submit, a lot of us fall back into the routine of only talking to parents when something goes wrong, just as it’s been since the beginning of professional education.

Let’s allow technology to revolutionize our relationships with our parents.

Here are some easy ways to keep parents informed from the comfort of your computer. Then, if you do have to reach out for their help, at least they (hopefully) won’t treat you like a stranger.

Text Instead of Call

The median cell phone user makes 5 voice calls per day, while that same median user sends 10 texts. The younger your parents, the more divergent those numbers are. Some people (me included) simply don’t answer the phone anymore and are much more likely to respond to a text.

Texting parents from your own private phone can be a dangerous proposition, but there are plenty of online options to text from your desktop. My favorite is Google Voice, which gives you a separate number independent of your cell phone. Just make sure to text just as much positive information as negative, hopefully more so.

Give Parents Accounts on the Class Website

The majority of schools and districts have now invested in online solutions that keep track of grades and assignments. They might also make a classroom web solution available to you, or there are plenty of options that you can research yourself. No matter what you’re using to keep yourself and your students’ work straight, make sure parents have a certain level of access so they can stay involved.

They obviously shouldn’t be allowed to post on class message boards or other participation outlets, but they should be able to see what’s expected of their child and whether they are meeting those expectations. Then, when Johnny’s work is slipping a little, you both have the same information to reference.

Email Newsletter

My daughter’s preschool teacher last year was very good about sending out a weekly newsletter. It helped us continue the educational conversation with our daughter outside of school, instead of having to ask a four year old what she did in school every day (Answer 9 times out of 10: “Nothing”). A weekly message may be a little excessive, but some sort of regular schedule can go a long way in bridging the gap between stranger and service provider in the eyes of the parents.

It may seem like a large time investment at first, especially if you’re going for a weekly schedule, but it will actually save you some time in the end. You will have less emails and phone calls (or texts) asking what’s going on in class and why their kid brought some strange topic up at the dinner table.

Tell us about how you connect with parents in your classroom.  What has worked well in the past and what hasn’t worked so well? 

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