Welcome to my thoughts.This week's focus is on communication from school to home and how to support teachers in understanding how to provide information more strategically and in a way that is easy for parents to understand.
1. Encourage teachers to provide information that is simple, relevant and to the point - if term outlines or weekly newsletters are too wordy or use complex terminology, they may not be read or understood by everyone. Encourage teachers to write as if talking with a friend rather than a colleague and break information down into small chunks or dot points.
So much information comes home in the first few weeks of school and it can be very overwhelming for some people, particularly parents who are new to the school experience. When information is presented using terminology that is unfamiliar or long words strung together, it can be difficult to decipher what the information is actually saying. Parents may also read the information and think, "Ok, now where do I fit in this picture?" They have the information given to them, now what do they do with that information?
2. Encourage teachers to provide a purpose for the information - educate parents on how they can support learning at home by having conversations with their children, making sure they set the scene for learning - to have time to complete any tasks and other activities at home and provide opportunities to enhance or support learning at school.
It is easy to forget that parents have been out of the school environment for a long time and are not familiar with having to be a parent in that environment. They remember being a student, but now their role has changed and there is no rule book on how to understand that role. When they are provided with information, they may not necessarily be aware of what to do with it. It is keeping them informed, but not always providing them with ways to support their child in their learning at home and how to use the information to do this. When providing information, it is important to keep this in mind; to provide the how along with the what.
3. Encourage conversations between teachers and parents around what activities children participate in outside school so teachers can develop learning at home activities for children that are related to what they are learning at school - making connections between home and school.
Conversations at the beginning of the year where the children and family are the focus provides valuable information for teachers in understanding the person they are teaching. These conversations also provide teachers with knowledge to build a relationship with children in the classroom by relating what they know about them with learning and being interested in them as a person. This is so valuable for children's wellbeing and for that child to enjoy learning with the teacher. I heard a great quote from a Principal at the Kidsmatter conference last year, "Children don't do school, they do relationships."
4. Encourage teachers to provide information that is consistent. If there is inconsistency in the names of programs, dates or events etc, it can be very confusing.
Inconsistency can result in building barriers that don't need to be created if there is some cross checking on documents and correspondence that goes home to families. Inconsistent dates, times and names for various things can also cause anxiety at home and sometimes children are affected by this.
5. Always provide contact details so parents feel comfortable to email or approach teachers to ask a question if they are not sure about the communication they are reading or hearing from other parents or from their child.
If there is misinterpretation or a misunderstanding, it is a good idea to have a system in place for parents to make contact with teachers or a specific staff member to ask questions. This can sometimes be a difficult area if someone is feeling anxious or stressed about getting things right. Parents want to do the best they can and may feel embarrassed asking questions. If teachers are able to provide information about how they can be contacted and provide reassurance that it is ok to ask questions, then highly emotional situations can be avoided.
These are just a few thoughts to continue improving communication in your learning community.
Contact Rachel on 0419 371 876 to learn more about how Practically Learning can assist you in developing and inspiring a positive learning culture in your school to improve learning outcomes for children.
“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives” Anthony Robbins
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