- Challenges in parent-teacher communication include everything from regulatory issues to cultural barriers
- It is possible to improve communication between parents and teachers with forethought and the right tools
- With flexible, secure communication and collaboration solutions, teachers can easily share information with parents through the channel of their choice
If you ask teachers what the most frustrating parts of teaching are, communicating with parents would be close to the top of the list. Challenges abound.
That’s unfortunate because most teachers are eager to find ways to improve parent-teacher communications, understanding that those communications are a significant factor in student success in the long term.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the challenges inherent in parent-teacher communication today, share some tips about how to improve communication with parents, and explain why using the right kind of technology is key to effective parent-teacher communications today.
Parent-teacher communication challenges
There are several challenges to effective parent-teacher communication, the majority of which fall into the following broad categories:
- Complex regulations
- Limited school resources
- Language and cultural barriers
- A lack of understanding of the importance of communication
Federal law regarding school communications is complex. There are rules regarding communication and parental engagement such as Title I, Part A, Section 1010 of the Every Student Succeeds Act, which contains, among other requirements, the following requirement:
“In carrying out the parent and family engagement requirements of this part, local educational agencies and schools, to the extent practicable, shall provide opportunities for the informed participation of parents and family members (including parents and family members who have limited English proficiency, parents and family members with disabilities, and parents and family members of migratory children), including providing information and school reports required under section 1111 in a format and, to the extent practicable, in a language such parents understand.”
Staying compliant with these and similar regulations can be challenging for schools from both an organizational and financial perspective.
Limited school resources
There are three things schools lack: time, money, and resources. Complying with ever-changing regulations, addressing the specific needs of student populations, eking out sufficient budget to support parent engagement strategies, and finding the staff resources to oversee parent engagement initiatives are all heavy lifts for most school systems.
Language and cultural barriers
More than half of teachers in the US worry about potential language barriers with students learning the English language. Going back to the regulatory issues mentioned above, schools have a legal obligation to communicate with parents in a language they understand.
Beyond the need to provide information in a common language with parents, there are also cultural considerations to take into account. For example, body language can be interpreted in widely different ways depending on the cultural norms of the parent to whom you are speaking. Some cultures, for instance, regard making direct eye contact as rude behavior, whereas other cultures may see it as a sign of openness and honesty. Such variations in what is considered acceptable for communication make it challenging for teachers to communicate effectively and necessitate a heightened awareness on the part of teachers when dealing with families that are culturally diverse.
A lack of understanding of the importance of communication
One of the biggest obstacles to parent-teacher communication is that parents often don’t understand why it’s important to talk to their children’s teachers. If parents don’t believe it’s essential to be in touch with their children’s teachers, they won’t be able to give their children the academic support they need for their children to succeed.
In a 2019 survey, teachers reported the top issue affecting their communication with parents is that parents don’t see the need to talk to teachers. Because such parents do not prioritize communication with teachers as important, it is not unusual for teachers to have to make multiple attempts to communicate before receiving any response from the parents.
How can teachers and parents improve communication?
Here are some proven tips to help:
- Choose the right technology
- Recognize cultural differences in communication
- Know when to personalize communications and when to send out mass communications
- Set a frequency of how often you’ll communicate
- Make written communications clear and concise
Choose the right technology
The right education communication tools offer flexibility, security, and ease of use. It shouldn’t be frustrating to log in and check messages from your child’s teacher. Moreover, the communication channels shouldn’t be limited to email or phone.
Market-leading unified communications platforms allow teachers to securely connect with parents through telephony, chat, and video conference. Additionally, these channels are easy to use. They also work well on mobile devices, so if parents only have access to a smartphone, they can check and respond to messages or hold a video conference with a teacher from their mobile device.
The right education communication tools also integrate with other education collaboration tools already in use, such as learning management software. Learning management software serves as the backbone of in-person and virtual learning; this technology serves as a repository for learning materials as well as assessments and assignments. Those integrations save time and effort and make it easier for parents and teachers to manage communication.
Additionally, the best education communication tools feature built-in security features to give parents and teachers peace of mind. 2020 was a record-breaking year for cyberattacks against American K-12 schools; schools disclosed 408 attacks including student and staff data breaches, ransomware outbreaks, phishing and social engineering, and denial-of-service attacks.
Education communication tools should offer:
- Multiple layers of security
- 24/7 platform monitoring
- 99.999% uptime SLA
- End-to-end encryption
- Multiple authentication levels
- Fraud analytics
Recognize cultural differences in communication
In some cultures, parents take a proactive stance in communicating with their children’s teachers. They feel comfortable voicing their opinions about the best options for their children. On the other hand, other cultures regard teachers as being the experts in education. These parents might not reach out to teachers with concerns about their children because they believe the teacher knows what’s best for the student.
Be aware of these differences when communicating. Just because a parent isn’t proactive about communicating with you doesn’t mean that they don’t care about their child’s education; instead, the parent might be waiting for the teacher to bring up issues in the classroom.
Know when to personalize communications and when to send out mass communications
There are times when teachers want to discuss an issue with one set of parents, and there are other times when a class-wide notification is necessary. Again, the right education communications tools make it easy for teachers to send one-to-one messages and one-to-many messages.
Set a frequency of how often you’ll communicate
You don’t want to bombard parents with too many messages. Explain to them at the beginning of the year how often you’ll share information with them (and the content of what you’ll be sharing so that they’ll know to keep an eye out for those messages).
Make written communications clear and concise
If you’re communicating with parents via text, you need to keep messages short and to the point. Parents don’t want to read long messages, nor do they want to read multiple messages.
With a unified communications platform at the heart of your education communication tools, you can easily schedule an appointment for a video conference for issues that need more in-depth discussion.
Improve teacher-parent communication with RingCentral’s education collaboration tools
RingCentral’s education collaboration tools make it easy and effective to communicate with parents. There are multiple, secure channels to share information with parents. Teachers can send text messages, make voice calls, and hold video conferences. To learn more about how RingCentral can help in your classroom, get a demo.
Originally published Sep 08, 2021, updated Sep 14, 2021