I generally like information. Lots of information. And, as the staff at my school will attest, I'm not adverse to sending out fairly long, involved emails that try to communicate important information in (sometimes excruciating) detail. At times folks have let me know that those emails are not always helpful, because they contain so much information that they often end up going unread. So as I contemplate how to communicate with the parents of the students in my class, I worry that I will bombard them with so much information that they'll end up ignoring it. How to strike the balance between being informative but not overwhelming?
My other concern is that high school is a time for parents to step back a little and students to step up. My philosophy has always been that I want the important conversations to typically be between me and the student, not me trying to get the student to comply by going through his or her parents. Yet I also think that parents should still be involved, and usually want to be involved, just not as a referee. If I communicate too much with parents, will I undermine the students' investment in my class?
With those concerns as backdrop, here are the various ways I'm currently planning on communicating with parents.
- I've already called all the parents to confirm their student has broadband access from home. When I did that, I asked for an email address I could use to contact them.
- I followed-up that phone call with an initial email message with some general information about the class.
- Yesterday I then sent a second email message, which had information for both the parents and the students.
- As you can see from that second message, I'm encouraging them to subscribe to the class blog via RSS or email. If they choose to do that, they'll get a daily glimpse into what we're doing, as that's where I'll post any homework the students have or other important information about the class.
- I'll be encouraging them to come to our scheduled parent-teacher conferences, preferably with their student present.
- I'm still thinking about how best to do this, but I want to encourage them not to wait until the scheduled parent-teacher conferences, but to come in and visit before that. I want to invite them in to observe/participate in a class, then perhaps stick around after and talk with me a bit about what they saw, as well as about their student. But this is one where I worry about my second concern, is that inviting them too far in, and will that make the students uncomfortable?
- I'll be emailing them periodically with good news, such as when their student does well on an assessment or has a great idea in class.
- I will, of course, contact parents if students are struggling, either academically or behaviorally, if talking with the student first doesn't seem to be helping.
- I'm trying to be pretty available for them to contact me as well, sharing my Google Voice number, my email address, and various other parts of my digital footprint.
- I hope to share interesting things that are going on in class, some of which may not be apparent even if they subscribe to the class blog. So, if we Skype someone in, or are doing a particularly interesting activity, I'll share that out.