Have you ever sent home a note to a parent requesting extra clothing or supplies for her child's cubby? The next day, when the child arrives without the supplies you requested, you were probably thinking: Did the parent read my note or did she simply forget? Sending a note home can sometimes be an ineffective way to communicate with parents. Here are 10 proven ways to communicate with parents in your center -- they're sure to work every time!
Parent Bulletin Board
Having a parent bulletin board is a great communication tool if it is maintained well and updated frequently. Useful information to post on your parent bulletin board should include: a calendar of important events along with detailed information about these events, the weekly menu, parent newsletters and information on parent resources. A great way to draw attention to the bulletin board is to change the theme each month and be sure that your bulletin board is near the entrance of the building.
Notes on the Child
Return address labels are a unique way to communicate short messages to parents. For example, if a child needs diapers ASAP simply write: “I need diapers” on a return address label and stick it on the child. Labels can also be used as a brief reminder for center events such as picture day, parties and other important days.
Posting Signs on the Parent Entrance
When parents enter your building one of the first things that they see is the door, so why not use it as a communication tool? This is also a great place to post key information such as: scheduled closings, upcoming events, party information, field trip information, policy reminders and much more.
Setting up family mailboxes is an organized way of sending notes home to parents. Depending on the size of your center, the mailboxes can be placed in each classroom or in a location near the parent entrance. Label each mailbox with the child’s name or the family’s last name. Post a sign on the outside of the entrance of your building reminding parents to check mailboxes each day. Also, encourage teachers and children to remind parents to check mailboxes.
Pick-up time or morning arrival is a perfect time to remind parents of classroom events, center events or supplies needed. Parents usually will appreciate the reminder, because they may not have time to read the notes that were sent home until days later. Verbal reminders send the message to parents that you are comfortable talking with them -- a key way to open up the lines of communication.
Use the Child as a Communication Tool
Children are known for having a good memory! Have you ever made a promise to a child? If so, chances are they frequently reminded you of the promise you made. When there is an important event in your center or if the children need to return something to school, simply ask the teacher to discuss it with the children at group time. The children will be sure to remind their parents over and over again!
If you need to get a message to a parent and find that sending a note does not work, give the parent a call. Be sure to keep the phone call brief (3-5minutes). Keeping the phone conversation short sends the message that you respect the parents' time. There are many different ways of contacting parents: home phone, cell phone or at work. Be sure to ask the parent what time of day is a good time to call them and which number is the best number to reach them.
Easels on the Outside of the Classrooms
Placing an easel on the outside of the classrooms provides another way of communicating with parents for the teachers. The parents will read the note before entering the classroom, and it may even create some discussion between the teacher and the parent about the note. Writing or typing notes takes time. If teachers do not have time to write notes, he or she can simply write messages on the easel outside of their classroom. The easel can either be in the form of a dry erase board or a chalkboard.
Mail Flyers or Postcards to Their Home
What is the first thing that you do when you get home? For many, this is the time they read the mail. Sending a post card to a parent’s home sends the message that your center event and their participation are important. In most homes, the refrigerator is full of important notes, and your postcard or flyer just may go on the refrigerator as one of these reminders.
In this electronic age, sending an email is another effective way of communicating with parents. Some parents have their emails sent to their cell phones, or they may even check their email at work. This is also a great way to save paper! Information that can be sent by email includes: newsletters, my day reports, reminders or even tuition reminders. During the enrollment process, ask each family for their email address so that you have another way of communicating with them.
The above are 10 different ways to effectively communicate with parents. Try some of the strategies or all of them to ensure successful communication among all parties. Before implementing the strategies, get your staff involved in the changes and notify the parents of the new ways that you will be communicating with them.
As you put these communication strategies into practice, you may even want to add these quotations under the heading of your notes:
“So that we may serve you better”
“Connecting home with school”
“Keeping parents informed”
Berger, E. H. (1995). Parents as Partners in Education. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, Inc.
Rybicki, C., Edwards, J. & Flath, S.(2001). ECE 127 Parent-Teacher Interaction Module. St. Louis Community College.
Communicating with Parents and Families. (Scholastic.com) http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4135&printable=true