More than a year and a half into a global pandemic, one thing is clear: what we’ve done in the past — our well-intentioned newsletters, our robo-calls, our dozens of flyers and emails and links home isn’t going to cut it.
Families, for the most part, were bolstered by the roles we encouraged them to play in supporting their students during the pandemic. They engaged us as never before and, in many ways, schools made their voices feel heard and valued. Emerging research reveals that, in the years ahead, families want and expect more access to their child’s learning.
To make the most of this opportunity, educators must be willing to reinvent their approach to engaging and communicating with families.
At minimum, that means:
- Providing robust family engagement training
- Facilitating deep exploration into and around things like culture, equity, and systemic barriers to school-home communication and relationships that power these engagements
- Infusing clear, effective and meaningful school communication practices into every aspect of our day-to-day operations, from greeting students at the door or online, to reaching out to parents and answering questions
When it comes to school-home communication, your work must include a deep dive into the philosophy and science of effective engagement, strategies for what works and what doesn’t, and practical solutions to removing common barriers that stand between schools and homes.
Your strategy should address the following:
- How to translate the ‘edu-speak,’ big words, and acronyms that sneak their way into our communications into everyday language
- How to strike a tone of “partnership” with families
- How to provide the “right” amount of information in way that that information can be easily received and understood by parents and others
- How to engage stakeholders with activities and calls to action that are understandable and “doable”
- How to make the most of non-verbal communication, like tone and body language
- How to navigate challenging and emotionally charged conversations
- How to engage parents and caregivers in the work of improving school-home communication
- How to infuse effective communication concepts and practices at every external touchpoint throughout the district or school
It may have taken a pandemic to truly open our eyes to the issues around school-home communication, but here’s the good news: We now know what we need to do. That realization is the first step toward creating true partnerships between our schools and homes.
Interested in ways to close the loop between your school or district and families? Want a framework and tools to empower staff and build relationships?
Patricia Weinzapfel is an author and one of the nation’s leading voices of the power of clear and effective school-home communication. Check out her School Communication Masterclass Professional Learning series on RocketPD and sign up or book a 30-minute conversation to learn more about the work.