A few weeks back, my youngest daughter's beloved Kindergarten teacher had to move mid-year (I wrote about the heartbreak here), and in her place came a long-term, fully-certified substitute. The two jobs in education I've always said I could never do are bus driver and substitute teacher, so anyone who steps into a classroom partway through the year has my utmost respect.
As a parent, this long-term sub has has started strong earning my loyalty with an excellent email she sent yesterday to all the classroom parents. Teacher-parent communication can be a minefield, so I'm always impressed when a teacher does it well. I found myself wondering what it was about this email that encouraged built confidence and inspired belief in her new teacher's competence and ability.
So I thought it'd be worthwhile to break down some film, analyze the communication, and take the measurables of what makes a strong teacher-parent email. My hope is that teachers will start considering what they're writing from a parent's perspective. In doing so, they can start to include these simple components that go a long way toward building a better school-home relationship.
A simple greeting goes a long way. Some emails are just quick facts or information, so this isn't always necessary. But in a situation where you're introducing yourself for the first time, you need one.
Papers don't always make it home in the folder of a Kindergartener, so this is a nice reminder that things should have been coming home and we should be looking for them.
- She likes children!
It's amazing how many emails don't communicate this idea. Parents need to know that teachers actually enjoy the small creatures they've been given responsibility for. (The first bullet point further supports this idea).
When she acknowledges our patience in the transition, she demonstrates empathy for the parental stress that comes with a change in teachers. It's definitely hard for her, so I appreciate the acknowledgement that it's been difficult for both of us.
- Information about in-class activities
I had never seen this before and it goes a REALLY long way with me: a summary of the movie they're going to watch. I'm not worried about questionable content in "The Lorax," but it shows that she's mindful of parents personal beliefs and boundaries for their kids.
- Providing dates in advance
Yes, there's going to be a note coming soon about Multicultural Night, but here's the date in advance! Thank you! Weeknight schedules can get really full, really fast, so the sooner parents have dates, the better!
She has provided extra resources, but stresses here that they're not required. I'm good with that. I especially like her point that since they weren't part of the expectations at the beginning of the year, they will remain optional. That tells me she's working to be consistent and align what she's doing with the systems already in place. Additionally, it does not go unnoticed that she's working with the other Kindergarten teachers and not trying to go at this alone. That makes me feel better.
- Privacy awareness
I'm thrilled she's putting resources all in one place, but that's not what I like most about this statement. She specifically points out in two different places that no personally identifiable information will be used on the website (faces and names). As an educator, I know how privacy and consent work, but not all parents do. It's reassuring that she is not only savvy with tech, but also aware of the rules.
- Ongoing communication
She lets us know when she'll be communicating with us and how often. It's a simple thing, but if she does it regularly, she'll build trust by showing she follows through on what she says she'll do.
- Request, don't demand
She says "If possible" here, which I appreciate so it doesn't sound demanding. This request is also a good idea to ask parents to reciprocate in response.
- The "Opt-Out"
I may not want to receive emails at every address I have in the school's system, so this option gives me a chance to unsubscribe where it's necessary. Again, it's a small thing, but it shows she's being respectful of our electronic lives and voluminous inboxes.
Obviously a well-written email isn't all there is to being a good teacher. But when a teacher is trying to earn the support of the parents whose children they work with every day, it can have a much bigger impact on a parent than you might think. So before you hit "Send," it just may be worth reading through it one more time...