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Home-School Communication is a Mess, But Parents and Teachers Can Meet Halfway

 

Communication between home and school is flawed despite the awesome educational technology tools at our disposal and the teachers who carefully send information home with their students. I’ve heard teachers say things like, “Can’t parents even go through a backpack? This paper has been in here for three days!”

When I hear these comments, I cringe and my mind races to an image of my kitchen table piled high with lunch remains, corrected homework and packets, a fluorescent pile of slime poking out of a plastic container and a crumbled request for a field trip—a cacophony of stuff! I confront these items at the end of busy days when hungry children circle me or fall into mindless yet soothing tech play. In despair, I repeat a weak litany of instructions like “pick up your things!” and “that’s enough phone time!” while I stand at the stove to cook.

And I’m not even alone doing this. I live in a multigenerational home with my philosopher husband, counselor daughter and two spitfire granddaughters and we are all on the job. The sad thing is that even with our combined 92 years of educational experience, we often become weak-kneed when facing the slew of papers that come home from school crying for a response.

So, even though I am a passionate believer in home-school communication, I recognize that the current plan needs serious improvement. Here is what I would recommend:

  • Use a communications app where people can talk or leave messages like Bloomz for communication and an online tool like DocuSign for permission slips. Kids often travel from house to house and permission slips get lost.
  • Track how much money schools are requesting from families—expenses add up and families may not have even one dollar to send to school for a healthy snack, field trip or another book fair.
  • Help students to take the lead. Explicitly teach students during school how to be better ambassadors for the home-school connection. Model practices and help them to visualize how they should extract material from their backpacks when they go home.
  • Give parents all of the codes they will need for Google classroom and technology apps at the same time, whenever possible. Small strips of paper can unintentionally find their way into the recycling bin.
  • Offer families a school contact number to get in touch with someone who speaks their language and can explain what’s going on.

Modern times are filled with relentless demands and responsibilities for our children’s families. Teachers are beset with increasing pressures to demonstrate student success, but right now, but many families can’t handle the onslaught of information and requests. The good news is that home-school communications can improve if families and schools meet each other’s needs halfway.

 


Maryann Woods-Murphy is a Talent Development Specialist, currently consulting for schools and districts. She serves as a consultant for the NJEA's Priority Schools Initiative, an opportunity that brings her into schools to work with talented educators every single day. A Gifted and Talented specialist and Spanish teacher for 38 years, Woods-Murphy is the 2010 New Jersey Teacher of the Year, the winner of the Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration Award, a 2011-2012 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow, an America Achieves Fellow (2011-2015), a Leading Educator Ambassador for Equity and the winner of the 2018, YWCA Racial Justice Award as well as a Director on the National Education Association Foundation Board.  Woods-Murphy earned her Ed.D. in Teacher Leadership in 2016 with a study on the way New Jersey teachers improve schools. She has co-chaired Teens Talk about Racism for 21 years with retired science teacher, Theadora Lacey (teenstalkracism.org). In her free time, she writes, travels and spends time with family, especially her three grandchildren, Olvyia, Victorya and Joseph. 






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