Parent and child sitting at a table together

Regularly checking in with every family is going to be vital this coming school year. As Melissa from Chick on the Run notes: “Building strong relationships with students and their families will be of the utmost importance. Strong and frequent communication to foster a positive home/school connection will allow parents to play an active role in their child’s education should we need to transition from remote to in-person or a hybrid of the two.” 

However, the ways in which you communicate might differ from family to family due to differing circumstances. And while there are many ways technology can help you stay in touch with caregivers, what happens if your students’ families don’t have access to technology? Or what if their altered work schedules (and yours!) complicate communication? In fact, a recent survey of over 1,000 educators conducted by TpT’s Education and Insights team found that 79% of teachers believe that an inability to communicate with students and families will be at least somewhat of a barrier to instruction this year.

Equity is one of the most important tenets in teaching — and the pandemic has starkly laid bare many inequities that need to be addressed. To make sure you’ve got all the tools you need to establish equity in parent relationships, we gathered the most important tips from our Teacher-Authors and the TpT community. Here’s how they’re staying in touch with caregivers.

How to Build a Solid Foundation for Communication 

  • Don’t take anything for granted. Not everyone will have reliable access to the internet or cell phone texting. “Make sure you don’t assume anything about any child’s situation,” says Zoe from Zoe Did That. “Ask questions and find out first.” 
  • More communication is better. Try easy online survey forms, email newsletters, phone calls, texts, or snail mail. Teacher-Authors of all grades and specialties stressed casting a wide net of communication techniques to make sure all parents are included.
  • Ask for feedback! Make your communication clear: you want to hear back from them about how their child is doing, and how you can best practice distance learning in their home, from far away. Give clear times when you can chat, email, text, or write. 

How to Ensure Equity

  • Don’t assume everyone has equal access to technology. “Keep in mind that not all parents or students have devices or the internet at home,” says Melissa from Teaching with Mel D. “Some might have to share a device with multiple children.” Avoiding bias toward high-tech learning during distance learning will be tough, but keep things simple and do your best. 
  • Differentiate based on their access. “Technology is the best way to differentiate,” says Della from Della Larsen’s Class. But what if students need differentiation based on their access to technology itself? “Just as you would differentiate in your classroom, be understanding of different family needs,” suggests Gwen Jellerson. “This can be as simple as providing a pencil-and-paper option for an assignment or ensuring you have translated instructions available in a family’s home language.”

Language Barriers

  • Using tech to your advantage. When they do have tech access, reach out to parents as many ways as you can. Most teachers plan to send out a simple survey form via an online document service. Others plan to record short, friendly videos with encouraging, organized messages for parents. Use the massive range of web translation tools to answer their written questions or translate your weekly email newsletter into their most comfortable language.
  • Keep it simple: be kind. Zoe from Zoe Did That recommends paying extra attention toward making parents who speak a different language feel comfortable. “Learning a few basic words in their language such as ‘hello,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘goodbye’ can go a long way into building a strong relationship with parents and carers,” she says.

Confidently navigate the 2020-21 school year with expert Teacher-Author and educator advice in TpT’s Back to School 2020 Guide: For Teachers Creating Tomorrow.