Reducing friction in parent-teacher communications

Tips for improving the parent-teacher relationship in today's particularly stressful educational environment.
Susan Oehlertz is the Technology Integration Specialist at Pocahontas Area Community School District in Iowa.

Many people believe there has never been a harder time to be a teacher…or a parent, for that matter. Teachers all over the country have hit their breaking point after over a year of having to juggle near-constant rostering changes, learning modes, and local, state and national requirements as a result of COVID-19. Parents are also feeling like they’re teetering on the edge after spending the last 18 months immersed in the constant stress of managing homeschooling, work, and households in an ever-changing climate.

And that’s to say nothing of the extra layer of stress parent-teacher communication introduces to the mix. Even before the pandemic, teachers felt a certain level of strain when it came to communication, with Family A wanting a totally different communication style than Family B, and Family C not wanting any communication at all, and so on and so forth. COVID-specific notifications are a particularly thorny issue; some parents insist they want them, while others adamantly don’t.

While most parents are invested in their children’s education, some feel bombarded by school communications. Balancing these unique needs during the pandemic took a certain amount of finesse. My school district came away with some great – and surprising – learnings about parent-teacher communications that will inform not just how we manage these liaisons during the rest of the pandemic, but how we will act for years to come.

Get Unified

The most common feedback I received from both teachers and parents was the desire for simplified communications on two fronts: mode of communication, and amount of communication. For years, our district used multiple modes of communication to relay information to parents – which sucked up time that could have been better used serving students, parents and teachers in other ways.

It wasn’t just parents that felt the strain of getting notifications from five or six different platforms; teachers also struggled to keep up with and remember which parents received information, and from which source. Not only is that an unfair burden to place on teachers, but it’s reductive to their duties. Finding a centralized way (we use ClassTag Connect) to deliver information to individual parents in the way they like it with minimal effort on the school’s end keeps all of that stress at bay.

Get Synced Up

Regardless of your district’s policies, the pandemic still likely impacts your teachers, students, and families even today. While my district has moved back to in-person learning, there is still a need for us to manage re-rostering efforts when students suddenly need to quarantine due to possible COVID-19 exposure. These efforts can be time-consuming and create a lot of confusion.

Finding a way to automatically update rosters so that teachers know who should be physically present in their class and who might be out quarantining at any point in time is vital and can help teachers maintain seamless communications with parents who may be overseeing work at home. It’s all about reducing that friction through transparency – which is why we implemented a roster syncing tool that allows teachers and parents to get an at-a-glance look at where each student is at any point in time.

Get Connected

The importance of centralized methods that allow parents to receive communications when and how they prefer has been a vital part of my district’s increased parent engagement. Parents no longer feel inconvenienced or put out by these notifications, which then makes them more likely to engage when they do get communication from their child’s teachers or school.

Now more than ever, it’s clear that there is no “one size fits all” teaching or communications method that works for every parent, student or teacher. But by implementing a centralized communication strategy that limits the time teachers have to spend sending updates – and the time parents need to take to access multiple sources – you’ll be one step closer to reducing parent-teacher friction this school year.

Susan Oehlertz is the Technology Integration Specialist at Pocahontas Area Community School District in Iowa.

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