Creating family-friendly schools—Seven communication practices

Communication between schools and families should be a two-way street. Too often parents miss the messages that come from school—whether written or verbal—and teachers miss messages from parents. Sometimes communications get lost, and sometimes they may be put aside because they are not presented in a way that parents can understand. Parents often are frustrated with how best to communicate with school staff and teachers. A number of variables can affect how messages are both delivered and received from school-to-home and from home-to-school.

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How information is communicated to parents, and what communication strategies are used with families, are important. Use a variety of ways to communicate with parents, taking into consideration their home language and their literacy levels. Strive to communicate in ways that all parents can understand. Consider the following seven practices for communicating with families.

  1. Welcome parents to the school with positive signs. A sign that says, “Welcome to our school! Please visit our receptionist before going to your child’s classroom,” is much more positive than, “All visitors must report to the office.”
  2. Train staff to answer the telephone in positive ways. Ensure that personnel answering phones are knowledgeable about the activities in the school, so they can quickly find answers for parents.
  3. Use technology such as email, class websites, and apps, like Seesaw and Edmodo, to provide information to and communicate with parents. If allowed, social media, such as Facebook and Instagram, can be valuable tools for communicating with families.
  4. Provide teachers with easy access to a school phone with long distance service to make telephone communication with parents easier, as families often keep their same cell phone number after having moved from a different state.
  5. When communicating with parents, either orally or in print, limit the use of educational jargon to make the communication easy to understand.
  6. Translate all home communications into the home language of the child’s family, if possible. Provide interpreters on-site when necessary.
  7. Write notes, letters, flyers, calendars, and other written communications at a low reading level and use lots of white space. Make accommodations for parents who do not read, have a learning disability, or have a physical disability such as deafness or blindness.

When schools reflect a welcome environment, parents not only feel wanted and needed, but also feel like important contributors to their children’s school success. Which of these practices might work for your school? What steps might you take to implement it?