The most important part of being a teacher is being a good communicator. It’s something that’s overlooked in teacher school but really it could be an entire class subject. It covers so many different parts of a teacher’s job from the everyday conversations with students to giving directions on an assignment to communicating with parents about student progress. When done well, it really saves a teacher a lot of headache and when done poorly, it creates additional problems. After five years of teaching, I’ve learned a few tricks about communicating that I know make a huge difference in my work.
1. Reach out to parents immediately. It’s important to establish a line of communication with parents so that you have allies for later in the school year. Of course it’s easy to send a letter home with students, but you can’t be sure it will reach the parents. You can also send out a generic email to all your parents, but I like to make it more personal. I try to send at least one positive email for each individual students within the first month of school. Nothing long or detailed, but something specific I noticed about the student that I want to praise. Then, when there is the first sign of trouble the parent knows who I am and will be ready to help. There is no better feeling than a thankful parent email when you’ve helped a student succeed.
2. Use your resources! My favorite is Remind. In my letter home to parents, I ask them to check if they want to sign up for my Remind messages. Almost all of them do and then throughout the year students tell me that their parents tell them to study.They’ve updated Remind a lot this year and the new chat service is incredible. Just some ways I’ve used it: remind a student of work they are missing, tell absent students what to make up, tell students when they leave things in my classroom, connect students and parents in a three-way message about improving a grade, and give students kudos for a well-deserved high score. The best part: you can schedule messages ahead of time! I do this on Fridays to send out a message on Sunday about big upcoming tests or projects.
3. Follow up, every time. If you have concerns with a student about his or her work, it’s important to follow up after you initiate the conversation. It’s especially important when you bring something to the attention of parents. Once a student has turned in the work that was missing or demonstrated better behavior, then follow up and give praise for the more positive things. It improves your relationship with the students and makes you feel better as a teacher for focusing on the good in every student.
Every school year there will be students who need more support than others. Some will need a little nudge and others will need constant communication to keep afloat. No matter the student, it’s a teacher’s job to communicate performance to the student and to their parents. It’s also the best way for teachers to keep their classroom running smoothly. I’ve learned this important lesson the hard way over the past five years. But now, technology makes it easier than ever to be effective communicators.