Set your year up for success: start communicating NOW!

Communication starts with expectations. If you start the year with a strong, clear message about you, your classroom, and your expectations you can be on track for an incredible school year. Here are four suggestions that can get your year off to a great start.

1. Set up your mobile messaging group
ClassDojo Messenger is a web browser and mobile messaging service that will bridge the gap between home and school. ClassDojo Messenger allows you to not only send whole class broadcasts to parents, but also privately and securely message parents about individual students.

2. Record a video introduction
Introduce yourself to everyone via video. The goal should be to instill confidence and communicate your professionalism (as well as your 21st century skills.) If you have certain school supplies, communicate those as well with examples to show. If you want students to come to class prepared, even show them how to assemble their binder. Set expectations about the year. Not everyone will come to open house but many will watch your video.

Create a link to your video after you’ve uploaded it to YouTube or SchoolTube by using a link shortener like bit.ly or goo.gl. Use this link in your emails or letters home. You can also see how many people went to that link, which will help you decide if it is worth the time next year.

3. Create your email list of parents (and students)
While you may not have every email of every parent, if you can have some, prepare to send a message to your group. Use a service like Boomerang to schedule these messages now. For example, you can send a reminder the day you start preplanning that you’re at school and excited. You can go ahead and write that email now and schedule it to be sent on a certain day. Imagine the power of an email that says,
“It is 8:00 am on the first day of school for me this year and the first thing I thought about is my new students!”

4. Send a letter home to your students
Include information on signing up for ClassDojo Messenger, a link to your video, and mention the email list to your parents in a letter that you mail home. Mention any school supplies or other important procedures such as how to schedule a conference.

Set expectations for how you’ll communicate. If this is the only letter sent home for the year, emphasize how you will communicate: bookbags, email, text messages? Let parents know what to expect.

Whether you use these specific suggestions or adapt your own, you should have a plan. The first time families hear from you should be a positive experience where you demonstrate your professionalism, set expectations, and communicate clearly. This can set a positive tone for the whole year. Good luck and start well!

Communicating with parents from day 1!

During my first year of teaching, I made the mistake of making a phone call home to discuss the negative behavior of a student in my classroom. This was within the first few weeks of school, and I received a jarring response, yet one that I learned a lot from. This student was refusing to do work, constantly disrupting the class, and often using disrespectful language to other students and to me. It came to a head one day, and I made a phone call after school to his mom. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “Hi, this is Ms. Christine, your child’s teacher.”

Mom: “Oh hi, is everything ok?”

Me: “Well, actually I was calling to talk about your child.”

…I went to on to summarize recent behaviors.

Mom: “Well honestly, this is the first time I am even talking to you this year. I don’t know you, and my son is also probably trying to get to know you. I don’t like that our first contact is about something negative. I would have loved to first learn about how you teach, how you run your classroom, and what your expectations are, that way I could use the same language with my son and he would know that you and I are on the same team.”

The conversation went on, and I completely understood and respected what she was saying. I didn’t reach out to families at the start of the year. I had planned to hold off until Back-to-School night, which was after the first month. That first month is so crucial to building on the rest of the year, and in hindsight, I should have made a positive contact with each family earlier.

After my conversation with that parent, I made sure to check in with each family, and have an initial get-to-know-you conversation. Throughout the year, I referred to students’ families as being on a team with me, where their child is our quarterback. We all need to work together to support the student. Making that initial initial phone call, talking in person, or chatting over ClassDojo Messenger, has made a huge difference in my classroom support system.