Best Practices for Teaching Remotely: “4 Ways to Communicate Effectively with Students and Parents


Do you give parents and students your personal phone number?

Can they call you at any hour for information?

What do your Facebook and Instagram pages reveal about your personal life to parents and students?


As many schools will start the school year off remotely as a result of COVID-19, as educators it is important to be able to access or be reminded about best practices for teaching remotely. Therefore, over the next several weeks the Academic Support and Resource Center will provide a series of articles on Best Practices Teaching Remotely for teachers and educators. The first article presented in the series is on “4 Ways to Communicate Effectively with Students and Parents” that includes the following:


#1 - SET UP PROFESSIONAL CHANNELS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR

STUDENTS AND PARENTS

  • Since you will be working actively online both in your personal life and interactions with students and parents it is important to take the time to "scrub" your social media presence through sites such as Facebook and Instagram. It's easy to forget how savvy your students can be. They can find posts, status updates, and those old college photos using loophole methods that we might not even know. There should be a separation between personal communication and "official" channels.

  • Create a separate phone number (Google Voice) for professional interactions.

  • Be open to various forms of communication: Zoom, Google Meet/Hangouts, phone, text, and email. However, you must be clear about when you are available for office hours and set appropriate boundaries. For example, create “do not disturb” parameters in overnight hours. This is important to set boundaries between your availability for work and home.

  • Create a schedule choosing specific times to respond to emails or messages at regular intervals during a day (for example 9 am and 3 pm), so you can focus on other tasks without feeling the need to answer every email immediately. Respond to messages within 24 hours., if possible.

  • Don't assume families know how to use email, chat, Skype, Voice, or other online tools, and clearly outline your expectations. Cover the following topics with students and parents, using video to explain whenever possible:

· Office hours, as well as how to connect with you during those times.

· Your policy about technical difficulties and any tech tips you have.

· How to submit assignments (drop boxes).

· How to use Google Docs (or other software).

· How to find their grades in the grade book or how they will receive and

track feedback and scores on their work. Do not show specific students or

their grades in your demonstration.


#2 - CREATE A PERSONAL CONNECTION WITH STUDENTS AND

FAMILIES

  • Try to make initial contact via phone call or a virtual office meeting or via a zoom meeting to establish a human connection.

  • Create a Google site (or another free resource) for a weekly newsletter. It’s super simple to create and update. Then, you can send the same link every week, and families have access to it as you make updates.

  • Host a meeting in a virtual space (Google Meet) or another virtual space depending on your school district. It’s a fun way for the student or family to see how you work and to offer suggestions for how to get organized when doing school from home.

  • Maintain a positive attitude and try to understand the families’ situations.

  • Don't forget to send emails with praise before you ever have to send ones regarding class issues. Do not send only pace or concern emails—you can develop a better rapport with families if communications begin positively.

  • Make videos and share them with students. Videos allow students to pause, rewind and replay as much as they need. Screencast O'Matic and Screencastify are great free resources to make simple videos. You can essentially move through a PowerPoint presentation while the app records your screen and your verbal explanations.

  • Think of sending fun tips for the students to stay active and learning, even during social distancing. They love to see photos of your real life, too! Share how you are staying entertained during this time of remote learning. Ask for them to send photos back, also!

  • If you have a virtual classroom, set time aside for "Lunch with your teacher!" Younger kids love this, and it motivates them to connect with you and their peers.

  • If students do not initially want to turn on the video feature during remote learning, do not insist. Plan to have a private conversation with the students and parents (remember not all home situations are conducive to outside eyes).

#3 - MAINTAIN REGULAR COMMUNICATION

  • Create a Google doc or spreadsheet with all your students’ information. Make a column listing the last time you spoke/communicated. This is great to see who needs a check-in at a glance.

  • Document, document, document. The more you stay on top of your “log” or notes, the more you will have to jog your memory for future conversations.

  • Families love to hear from you. Schedule times that you will regularly reach out to families both as a group and as individual students. They want to hear progress updates, tips for how to work through assignments, and additional sites they can use for practice.

#4 - SECURE AND STREAMLINE SYSTEMS

  • Do not leave messages on answering machines or text specific information to parents, guardians, or students that contain personal information, such as grades. It is so easy to forget this! Instead, ask them to call you back so you can discuss the grade if they have a question after looking at the online grade book.

  • Use the Bcc function to send emails to multiple students or families at once without compromising their personal information.

  • Create templates for written communication so you do not have to recreate similar communications again and again. Personalize them with short phrases about the student.

  • Clear directions are vital when communicating remotely. If you can present an example of how you would like something done via video or document, that's the best—remember they can't just raise a hand and ask a question. Use rubrics with measurable outcomes (how many examples you'd like to see, for instance).

  • Remind 101 is a good resource for sending bulk, secure, text messages to students and families.

  • Use Google Calendar to help students keep track of online work or synchronous meetings. You can go into Google Calendar and create a calendar for each of your subjects or classes, colorize it, and then share it with your students. They will get an invite and be able to see the calendar.

  • In the calendar event descriptions, you can link to documents in your shared drive, videos, or online Google forms.

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