How to Communicate With Parents During COVID-19: Less Jargon, More Grace

by | Nov 24, 2020 | Blended Learning and Virtual Learning, Parent Engagement, School Reopening

It’s easy for principals and school leaders to feel discouraged when trying to communicate with parents during any school year, but communicating with parents during the COVID-19 pandemic is especially challenging. When students must learn remotely part-time or full-time, we depend on parents to help keep them on track with the curriculum. Here are some tips for communicating with parents during this pandemic:

1. Let parents know exactly what to expect.

The state of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, with each region of the country experiencing peaks at different times. It may be impossible for your leaders to know if/when your classes will have to shift to a virtual-only format and if/when students will be allowed to come back to school in-person. However, even though school leaders cannot predict precisely when changes will occur, parents and guardians need to have clear expectations, so they know how to support their students.

Make sure your team keeps parents informed about:

  • Where to find information regarding assignments and schedules — Which communications platform will you use? How can parents easily access this information?
  • When your team will provide updates — On what dates will your leadership team inform parents about any upcoming changes to the school schedule and learning locations? How often and at what times can parents contact teachers and school leaders?
  • Who to contact when questions and issues arise — Although parents may have questions about virtual learning technology, Project Tomorrow finds that about 78% of teachers are “not very comfortable” supporting student collaboration through technology. If technical issues arise, parents and students need to know whom they can contact for support to prevent lapses in learning.

Most families understand that COVID-19 poses unprecedented challenges in education and know that your team will often need to adapt “on the fly” as the situation changes. Keep parents and guardians updated as you adapt so they can help support their students through the adjustments.

2. Provide plenty of feedback opportunities.

During virtual learning, many parents must take on the roles of timekeeper, tech support, and private tutor as their students work from home. Assume these roles are unfamiliar to parents and let them know how your team is available to offer support. Parents and guardians need a way to provide feedback and converse with your team so you can work cooperatively to support student learning.

Your school leaders may want to invite feedback through:

  • Surveys — Ask parents about their communication preferences, needs for resources, issues, and questions about students’ assignments, what is working well, and what remaining challenges still need to be solved.
  • One-on-one meetings — Have your teachers schedule regular one-on-one meetings with parents and students so they can provide more individualized support for unique student needs.
  • Asynchronous communication — Asynchronous communication falls somewhere between a blanket, one-time survey, and a live, one-on-one meeting. Let parents know how they can contact teachers and school leaders outside of regular office hours and prescheduled meetings. For example, some school leaders have set up an email address designated for parent feedback or a discussion forum open to parents, teachers, and school leaders. This way, parents do not feel like they have to wait for a meeting date to ask their questions.

Make a plan to turn parent and guardian feedback into measurable data that you can use to provide more consistent support for all students. For example, you can find trends regarding which questions and challenges arise most frequently to help you plan ahead. Teacher Pay Teachers recommends keeping a contact log to ensure all parents receive regular, consistent communication.

3. Streamline communications.

A We Are Teachers article from this summer explains one of the struggles that parents experience through distance learning: “A common pain point was that information, assignments, and collaboration took place on different platforms.” Especially for parents who are new to virtual learning, it can be challenging to track where and how to get information about students’ learning.

We Are Teachers recommends that school leaders find a way to consolidate communications into a single platform, so parents and students only have to keep track of one new system. Also, communications should be planned ahead of time to reduce the volume and increase the value of messages sent to parents. The Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA) explains, “Every teacher sending an email to parents is not a best practice. Rather, schools and districts together need to provide coordinated, clear messaging, systems, and plans.”

4. Get professional support to improve parental engagement.

Our team of expert consultants and veteran educators understand the challenges you face as a principal or school leader. We help district leaders and school principals implement evidence-based practices into their leadership strategy, including the following areas:

  • Parent and guardian engagement
  • Virtual learning and blended learning
  • Raising student achievement

Additionally, we know that your teachers need extra support to learn how to best communicate with parents during the pandemic. We provide customized professional development to help meet your team’s specific goals.

Schedule a free call with one of our experts today to learn more about our leadership support approach and professional development.

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