Keeping students engaged in the classroom is a battle that teachers fight every day. Another battle that some don't always think about is keeping the students' parents engaged in what's going on in the classroom. Parents and teachers should be working together to ensure student success. And the best way to increase parent engagement is through strong communication. Long gone are the days of just sending a flyer home. We now have many different ways for communicating quickly and more effectively with parents. Once a teacher sets up a strong communication network to keep them in the loop about what's going on in class, parent engagement will increase -- and students will benefit in the long run. These are just a few of the ways that enhanced communication can support parent engagement.
Sending regular emails to parents can be a great way to keep them engaged with what's going on in the classroom and what their children's grades look like. This medium can accommodate mass emails to the entire class about upcoming projects, tests, and other assignments, or individual emails to parents about more student-specific matters. With email, you can include links to videos that you've taken in class, links to your class website for more information, or anything else that parents might need to better support their child at home or inform them of the work you're doing. Emails are still a great way to connect quickly, and you can set up templates and timed mailings in advance. This connection allows parents to stay informed and engaged in the class activities.
Some parents are less attached to email than others, so Remind is a helpful tool that allows teachers to send text messages to users who've signed up. Creating a special Remind group for parents would be an easy way for directly sharing information. You've probably discovered that sending fliers or other forms home with students can be risky -- backpacks turn into black holes, and documents stuffed into them are never seen again. Remind allows users to attach PDFs so that they'll have access to these elusive documents. This quick text messaging system ensures that parents are getting the information they need in a timely manner, and allows them to be engaged in the day-to-day activities of the classroom without feeling left out.
Maintaining an active website is another excellent way to keep parents engaged in the classroom. More passive than emails and Remind, your frequently-updated website is always waiting there for parents to find information when they need it instead of making them wait for your next email or text message. Websites are an ideal space for student work, details that might not fit in a text or email, and other important documents for parents to access at their leisure. This is also a tool that students can use with their parents to find out more about that field trip or long-term project. You can add web links to emails and text messages, leveraging your site as a handy complement to the other services.
Sometimes parents want a face-to-face conversation with their child’s teacher but are unable to meet because of a crazy work schedule. With video chat becoming more and more commonplace, open office hours could help you connect with parents who can't physically make it to school during smaller windows of time. By using Skype, Google Hangouts, or another video chat system, you can be available for parents to call in from anywhere in the world for a teacher conference. With screen-sharing features, teachers can pull up student work and grades to share directly with the parent. Maybe you can set up some after-school office hours once or twice a week that would allow parents to connect when needed. Sometimes these parents are the ones who want to be the most involved, but their schedules prevent them. This is just another option for involving parents more deeply in the classroom to better support their student.
Most things boil down to communication. The better the communication, the higher the engagement. This is true for students in the classroom and for parents at home. These are just some of the ways that you can increase parent engagement, but there are others. If we want to get the most out of our students, parents and teachers must work together, and creative use of technology can make that possible.
If you have other ways for increasing parent engagement, please share them in the comments section below.