Updated: Jun 22, 2021
Communication is key to creating strong family partnerships. It is important for educators to build trust through honest, thoughtful, nonjudgmental sharing of ideas. By communicating frequently, regularly, and predictably it will be easier for both educators and families to listen with an open heart and mind.
Here are six tips for teachers for communicating with families in your class, including those who have children with disabilities.
1) Send out a communication before school starts
Introduce yourself and your experience teaching
Communicate care and respect for their child’s well-being and success
Let the family know that you welcome their child and look forward to getting to know them
Provide information about routines such as grading updates, availability for live communication (“office hours”), and which teacher will be their main contact
Ask for family input on preferred methods and times for communication
2) Provide multiple communication methods and alternatives for families, considering different accessibility options
Phone, email, video call, text message
Paper note (snail mail or backpack)
Remind (translates into other languages, sends documents)
Bloomz (gives updates, tracks performance)
ClassDojo (creates positive class culture)
TalkingPoints (translates into other languages)
SchoolMessenger (is a central place to access information/notices)
3) Individualize communications
If a student lives in 2 households, ask for a schedule and be prepared to send multiple communications and documents to each house.
For families who are non-native English speakers, try to use the family’s primary language. Google Translate may not be perfect, but will show you are trying.
If a student has a complex disability, the family will need to provide extensive supports at home, just like you do for instruction. Consider that when sending work home.
4) Focus on the positive
If you need to communicate a problem, then also share successes twice as often.
Presume competence and hold high expectations; send age-appropriate assignments that are adapted for successful completion.
Presume positive intent on the part of parents; they are doing the best they can.
For students with limited verbal communication, consider having a peer write a positive note about the day in the student’s home-school communication book.
5) Consider a monthly class newsletter
Explain the focus of instruction for the coming month.
Highlight student accomplishments, including a picture of a wall of student work.
Make sure the diversity of your class is represented.
Include your students with disabilities in all aspects of your news.
For students with limited verbal communication or who are learning English, offer an adapted version with pictures and/or other languages.
6) Things to remember
Be thoughtful about the words you use, especially in writing. Humor, which is easily understood in person, may not come through in print.
If families are not responding to your written communications, try a phone call.
Communicate clearly, positively, and always with an eye on finding solutions.
Follow up phone calls with emails documenting your communication to make sure you share understanding – even just to say “thank you!”
“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good.” — Buddha
This post was originally written by MCIE Staff.