KRISTINE P. LLEVADO
Ways to promote regular, two-way, meaningful communication between parents, families, and schools
Teachers strive to establish partnerships with parents to support student learning. Strong communication is fundamental to this partnership and to building a sense of community between home and school. In these changing times, teachers must continue to develop and expand their skills in order to maximize effective communication with parents. is article presents a range of communication opportunities available to teachers, including the emerging use of technology. Some of these practical suggestions may seem very basic to those already actively promoting parental involvement, but unfortunately, many teachers have not been trained in nor are they practicing proactive communication with parents. Barriers to effective communication are considered in conjunction with potential solutions. Two-way communication occurs when teachers and parents dialogue together. Effective dialogue “develops out of a growing trust, a mutuality of concern, and an appreciation of contrasting perspectives”. A teacher may contact parents to celebrate a child’s successful school experience. However, more frequently, the contact is to share a concern about the child, which can be a source of significant tension for both teachers and parents alike. Teachers should strive to make these interactions as productive as possible.
One popular communication strategy is a phone call home. As the teacher of a multi-age class, Gustafson (1998) called the parents of each child in her class monthly to discuss concerns or to answer questions. She noted that these contacts provided her with valuable information about the lives of her students, including extracurricular activities, bullying experiences, and a death in the family. Gustafson concluded that the solid academic performance of her students came, at least in part, from positive communication with parents by phone. Love (1996) advocates the use of “good news calls” to recognize the child for progress or a job well done as a way of promoting positive relations with parents. By keeping calls brief and leaving messages as needed, Ramirez (2002) developed an efficient way, during school hours, to contact all of his 160 high school students’ parents. He notes that these initial positive phone calls set the stage for more collaborative interactions later if needed, because parents were already an “ally.” Another traditional occasion for dialogue is the parent-teacher conference. Effective parent-teacher conferences are an opportunity to create a successful partnership, but they may be anxiety provoking for both teachers and parents alike (Minke & Anderson, 2003). Indeed, Metcalf (2001) suggests that “instead of viewing the conference as a reporting session for what is not working in school, teachers can construct an opportunity to discuss what is working with the student” (p. 18). Metcalf advocates a solution-focused...