Home-School Communications

by Kathleen L. Bulloch, M.A.
CCC Speech/Language Pathologist

Communication is the foundation for all other parent involvement activities. Yet, most parents typically hear from the school only when their child is in trouble. Positive examples of efforts to improve communication are listed below:

Personal Contact:
  • Hold a "Parent Get Acquainted Coffee and Continental Breakfast" in the fall.
  • Invite new children and their parents to a "Get Acquainted Hour" the week before school starts.
  • Invite new teachers and new parents to a tour of the district. Cover points of interest, local churches, facilities available in the area, places that could be used for field trips, boundaries of attendance area.
  • Develop a slide presentation orienting new parents and students to the school.
  • Establish regular visitation days for observation of classes and a chance for parents to offer constructive suggestions.
  • Invite parents to come with pupils to "See What I Do in School" one day during the year.
  • Invite parents to visit classrooms whenever they wish to do so and send special invitations for culmination of a unit, puppet play, songfest, etc.
  • Arrange meetings with parents whenever an innovation in curriculum and instruction is to be tried.
  • Invite parents of a particular grade level, such as sixth grade, to informal "buzz" sessions in small groups an school-related topics of concern to parents and teachers, such as discipline, homework, or communicating with that age child.
  • Have open houses for one grade level at a time. Small groups of parents lend better to communication.
  • Vary the times for open houses. Hold some in the afternoon, some at night.
  • Set up parent conference days during the school year for parents to come to school to discuss progress with their child's teacher.
  • Schedule a parent-teacher conference in a student's home. (It'll help you see what it's like for some parents to come to school.)
  • Hold monthly informal "rap sessions." Plan to drink lots of coffee, share lots of information, and do lots of listening to concerns while building goodwill and feelings of unity.
  • Organize special outreach efforts to hard-to-reach parents through telephone calls, home visits, and special mailed invitations to parents in home languages to have lunch at school with children.
  • Invite fathers to a breakfast with teach ers where discussion will take place and dads may then visit classes as their day permits.
  • Have teachers select a "Student of the Month." The student's parents are invited to lunch with the principal and parents of other "Students of the Month." Invite community leaders to the lunch also.
  • Have children prepare a luncheon for parents, teachers, and themselves. Send handwritten invitations.
  • Invite several parents to sample the school lunch once a month. Seat them with the principal, a teacher, and several randomly selected students.
  • Invite each parent to have lunch with his/her child at school during American Education Week.
  • Let the students in your room cook an evening meal or a luncheon for their parents. While they are eating, let the children tell what they're learning.
  • Hold a bean and hot dog supper and open house coordinated with a talent show. Allow children to show their parents around the school building.
  • Hold a "Grandparent's Day" to honor grandparents with special recognition given to those who had made a contribution to the school.
  • Hold a "Senior Citizen Day," inviting grandparents and other older friends of the school. Provide transportation.
  • Set up a plan for principals to make "house calls."
  • Make it possible for teachers to make home visits at least occasionally.
  • Try neighborhood coffees in parents' homes. Invite people in area to meet informally with the principal and one or two teachers to talk about school and education.
  • Conduct home visits involving teachers and trained volunteers.
  • Be sure that teachers are represented and recognized at PTA or other parent group meetings.
  • Encourage teachers to become more visible in the community.
  • Seek out the parents who never participate. Sometimes these parents feel inadequate or timid and simply need to be encouraged and needed.
  • Use the "grapevine" network; nothing is more powerful and gets the word out faster.
  • Provide translators and translations.
  • Establish a Home-School Cooperation Committee. Exchange reports with other schools.
  • Make an effort to improve the telephone answering techniques of everyone in the school office.
  • Try teacher phone calls to parents to invite them to back-to-school nights.
  • Occasionally, ask the child to have parents call the teacher rather than the teacher contact the parent.
  • Set up a listeners' bureau in your community. Suggest members advertise their telephone numbers. Let them know that you really want to know what is being said, and be sure to let them know when you have followed up on concerns they have shared with you.
  • Advertise one evening a week when parents or students can telephone the principal to ask questions or discuss problems.
  • Have teachers make at least one positive phone call per week to a parent to report on a child's accomplishment.
  • Hold staff workshops on communications skills with a special focus on parents.
  • Have an information brochure on your school for visitors, for parents to send to grandparents, or for graduates to have.
  • Improve the quality and frequency of school newsletters. Try mailing home.
  • In each month's newsletter, publish the names and phone numbers of a few parents who are willing to talk to other parents about any kind of interest or concern.
  • Set up an idea exchange in the school newspaper. Ask parents to send in ideas. Then, in a later issue of the paper, publish ideas and how they are used.
  • Writing in the school plan that each teacher will send home weekly class newsletters.
  • Send home "Happy-Grams"-good news notes about accomplishments and achievements.
  • Send home weekly notices in a school envelope, inviting two-way communication on the envelope.
  • Send home weekly lesson plans (one page so parents can follow the week's lesson).
  • Send preprinted postcards to parents.
  • Provide a weekly student performance contract which student, parent, and teacher sign.
  • Set goals for each child and send home notes that parents must sign and return.
  • Send weekly or bi-monthly progress reports to parents.
  • Reward students for returning signed notices, homework, etc.
  • Advise parents of the teacher's conference periods or other best times to reach the teacher.
  • Take note of the fact that more fathers are participating in school activities. Be sure to include fathers in all school communications.
  • Have a monthly birthday calendar posted in the hallway with everyone's birthday on it. Be sure to add new students when they arrive.
  • Request that when a parent visits school that he/she complete a survey, perhaps while enjoying a cup of coffee, on their interests and needs.
  • Obtain parent surveys on key issues and invite parent opinions (e.g., sexuality issues, discipline policies, home-school communications).
  • Have students conduct a survey of parents to evaluate the school and collect ideas for improvement. Distribute the survey results to all parents.
  • Survey after parent-teacher conferences. Ask how effective your conferences are and what additional kinds of information parents want about your school classroom. The responses will help you identify communication needs.
  • Follow up on problems and resolve complaints-no matter how small or insignificant they may seem. Little things have a way of building into big things.
  • Turn people on. Show you are genuinely interested in what they are doing. Exude enthusiasm!
  • Have tooth envelopes for sending home the teeth that come out at school with a note from the teacher. These are tender moments parents don't want to miss.
  • Have parents obtain articles to be sold in "Santa's Secret Shop" to enable children to purchase gifts for family members.
  • Urge teacher training institutions to place more importance on home-school cooperation in their teacher education programs.

©2003 by Kathleen L. Bulloch, MA, CCC

About the Author: Kathleen L. Bulloch was a Speech/Language Pathologist for the Riverside County Office of Education in Riverside, California and an Educational Consultant/Scriptwriter for a children's television series.