Navigating communication over long breaks
When it comes to keeping in touch with the parents of our students, the activities of the school year calendar give us plenty to talk about: registration, assignments, progress reports, and extra-curricular events.
What about long breaks like Winter or Summer Vacation? How should we keep in touch? After all, it is a break for students and teachers, right?
But when schools are trying to mitigate the “summer slide” of loss in reading skill or are trying to support newcomer families whose adjustment process doesn’t take a break, what can teachers do to stay engaged with families during long breaks? Think of it this way…
A few miles from where I live is the expansive Rainbow Harbor/Marina of Long Beach, California. Every weekend, hundreds of boats large and small leave that protected alcove to cruise the Catalina Channel. When boats navigate open water, they use radar to stay aware of their own location and that of others nearby. This helps to avoid disastrous collisions, but also to approach other vessels and offer assistance. To stay visible, captains navigate in a special way to show up on the radar of other ships.
In the same way, as teachers on break, we want to respect the space it affords students and their families to relax, but we also want to remain approachable to provide support until school resumes. In other words, we want to stay on families’ RADAR.
So let’s use that keyword as an acronym to learn five things to do to communicate with families during long breaks.
R – Regular messaging
A – Asking questions to elicit responses
D – Deciding when it’s right to send
A – Advising families on your availability
R – Reconnecting as the break ends
If you want to keep in touch, you’ll have to do exactly that: send messages with some predictable regularity.
With the cyclical schedule of the school year, it is easier to stay mindful of topics for parent communication, but during breaks, you’ll have to provide the structure. With TalkingPoints, you can schedule messages in advance. If you take just an hour to compose and schedule several messages set to the dates and times of your choice, you can relax a little easier knowing you have parent connection on “set it and forget it”!
Asking questions to elicit responses
To really harness the power of what makes TalkingPoints different from other parent messaging platforms, you’ll need to go beyond one-way announcements and compose messages that will get a higher rate of response.
Built into the dashboard of TalkingPoints, the response effectiveness meter shows the rate of responses with sent messages in the past 30 days. Since humans are hard-wired to want to respond to questions when posed, you’ll raise the odds that parents will reply to your message if you include a question that is near the last thing they read.
To make it even easier and shorter for them to respond, create a poll with a few answer options. Parents that receive SMS texts can reply with a number. Parents with the TalkingPoints for Parents app can click on their option. As the teacher, you’ll see the results broken down, enabling you to quickly analyze the response data.
Deciding when it’s right to send
While students and teachers may be on break, the rest of the working world is going on with business as usual. Set healthy boundaries for everyone.
Research has shown that healthy work-life balance includes times when employees separate work time from rest time. Remember this for both yourself and your families. Consider the days of rest, Holy Days, and holidays for the cultures of your students’ parents. Fridays are worship days for Muslims; Saturday for Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh Day Adventists; Sundays for other Christians. You can access calendars of national and religious holidays and send greetings before those days as a way to honor and connect with parents who may observe them in short but meaningful messages to those families.
Advising families on your own availability
Be up front in your first message of the break as to when you’re available to receive and reply to messages.
As much as we want to be there to support our students and their families, it is good to set boundaries for ourselves to sustain our ability to help. You can set your office hours in TalkingPoints so when parents send a message outside of those times you will not be notified.
With some structure to your break time, you can enjoy the time to recharge and families can feel comfortable knowing when they can reach you.
Reconnecting as the break ends
Consider pacing out a series of questions or announcements to parents with shorter and shorter intervals before classes resume. This will warm them up to the need to communicate and prepare to return. Parents may also have more questions or needs, so they will appreciate knowing that you are in contact with them more often to answer them.
Remember, you can schedule messages ahead of time in TalkingPoints to accomplish this, or you can get yourself into gear by taking the app off auto-pilot, so to speak, and compose unique messages more often as the return date approaches.
When you advocate with parents by sustaining two-way communication in a language they can understand, you build relationships that raise the odds for student success. With a little structure and pre-planning, the down time of school breaks can still be a way to connect and support parents while you get much needed rest and recharging. The more that parents are aware of you with regular, short, positive messages, the more opportunities they have to engage. And that’s what RADAR is all about!
Want to Learn More?
TalkingPoints’ easy-to-use platform, interactive features, and precise translation in over 100 languages can provide game-changing solutions for bridging the home-school gap for teachers, school districts, and families. Learn more about our services here, and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how TalkingPoints can increase family engagement, improve home-school connections, enhance relationships between teachers and families, and support academic and social-emotional growth for every student.
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