How can we Effectively Communicate with Families?
This can be one of the most challenging issues for teachers, but if we realize the simple "golden rule" of talking with family members the way you would like for someone to talk with you, we’re ahead of the game. Again, all adults like to feel valued, and we can help them feel valued through positive conversations. When talking with families, use active listening techniques such as eye contact, head nodding, and good non-verbal communication. Your body language often speaks louder than words. Standing with your arms folded might convey the message that you really don’t want to hear what they are saying. Sitting with a barrier (like a desk) between you and the parent might convey the message that you are not a friendly person and you like to keep your distance. If you are constantly looking at your watch or out the door, the parent will get the message that you are rushed and really don’t want to take the time for this conversation.
Other techniques can also be helpful when talking with families. Validate their feelings. When you say things like, "that must have been frustrating," or "I can see why you were upset," or "I bet you were scared," or "that must have been exciting," you are letting them know that you are listening and that you care. Rephrase what they say. Repeating what someone says or putting a statement into your own words, also lets them know you are listening and are really interested in what they have to say. Ask questions. When you ask a question, you get clarification of what was said and you also convey the message that you really want to continue the conversation. These techniques are simple, but very effective. Practice them with your co-workers or even your spouse. We also need to remember that as we are "actively listening," we don’t have to "win" the conversation. Let the parent share without any judgment or "one-upping" on your part.
In addition to verbal communication, which could also include phone calls, families today are able to communicate via email, texting, websites, and other technologies. Just be careful what you post on social networking sites. Remember that everything posted is public domain and if anything is posted about your program or the children in your classroom, this could constitute a breach of confidentiality. Written communication is also helpful and could include bulletin boards, notes home, newsletters, and curriculum boards to share the children’s learning. Please remember to have another pair of eyes look over what is written, just to check for spelling, grammar, and tone.