I love hearing from parents. I love learning from parents too. I have tried lots of different parent communication systems over the years. I have done daily behavior charts, communication notebooks, ask me about my day bracelets, daily emails, phone logs, and lots and lots of notes! Some of these have taken a lot of time and a lot of acres of the rainforest....sorry Lorax!
Over the past 8 years, I have found that I get the most meaningful responses from parents when they have time to look things over, answer questions, and think about what they want to say. There are times when I make a quick phone call or jot down a quick note, but if I really want important information I try to give parents a little more time. I typically give them a full school week to respond. Here are a few things I send home...
I send home a questionnaire for parents at the beginning of the year to tell me about their children. It addresses a wide range of questions, such as...What strengths does your child show? How does your child learn best? What are your goals for your child? What do you like to do as a family? Is there anything special you would like me to know about your child? I LOVE reading these! Even though I get a mountain of paperwork back the first week of school, I read every single word written on these papers. I write down important things to remember and try to use my new knowledge of student strengths, interests, and goals as I begin planning my year.
There is an option to attach an additional paper if parents want to say more. I can remember a mom who wrote the most beautiful letter about her child. It truly made me look at that little girl through her mother's eyes. It's something I wish that little girl could read when she's all grown up, and something I felt lucky to read.
I send home another parent form before fall conferences. I like to start conferences by going over their feedback. The form also helps me prepare for concerns so I can have data or information ready! No one likes surprises at conferences! There are also questions for the children to answer too so that everyone gets a chance to be heard! These forms are FREE in my store so you want to grab them here.
Throughout the year, we send home test packets with parent signature pages. If you ask my firsties, they may tell you it is really a "lunch party ticket," because they have to return it by Friday to come to a lunch in the classroom. These signature pages help me communicate with parents through work samples, and families often write back very meaningful feedback in the comments section.
As the end of the year approaches, I also send home a survey about homework for parents and for children. I use the feedback to improve our school to home connections the upcoming year.
I know that there may be obstacles when trying to communicate with parents. I've called plenty of voicemail boxes that were full. I dialed lots of phone numbers that are no longer in service. I have found two week old notes still stuck inside folders, but I have had a LOT of success sending home papers and giving families time to fill them out....
...and remember, if all else fails, calling important papers "lunch party tickets" also helps!
Happy Teaching Friends!