How much parent communication is too much?

My teaching partner and I have a grade level website which we update daily.  On it we have every subject we teach and include the lesson we have done that day, most times we include samples of student work and additional websites that the students can use to help supplement their learning.   On top of this I usually email my parents on a monthly basis to discuss how their child is progressing both socially and academically.  I do not do it in the months that report cards and going home.  I also email or call anytime if I have a concern or if the student has done something well that day, that week, etc.  I have called on Sunday mornings to tell parents how well their kid has done on an assignment.  However it upset me when I overheard a parent talking and suggesting that teachers should be emailing parents weekly.  Should I have been annoyed at that parent’s comment?  I have 35 students in my homeroom class and another 34 in a grade 8 math class.  How much time would it take me each week to email all of them?  She suggested that the teacher could send a group email.  To me if I am emailing you to talk about your child’s progress a group email is unacceptable.  Have I sent whole class emails before?  Yes, if I am addressing a whole class issue (or even a large number of students).  But not to talk about individual social or academic progress.  I do know some teachers who touch base with their student’s parents on a weekly basis but shouldn’t that be their choice?  I know of a teacher at a private school who told me that they are expected to email or call each parent weekly so he does 4 or 5 students a night.  When we entered this profession we knew it was a demanding one, so am I being unreasonable in thinking that this is an unreasonable request?  Sometimes I think, the more we give the more people want. Are demands (or expectations) such as these turning our younger generation away from teaching?  My daughter has said she would never become a teacher becomes of the amount of work she sees me doing and she is not prepared to put in the extremely long hours that I do.  It saddened me a bit because I think she could be shutting out an opportunity to touch a number of lives in a positive way. (Please note that I’m not saying that this is the only way to do this.) Parents definitely need to be involved and know what is happening in their child’s classroom but how much communication is too much? How much time should we devote to keeping them informed?  At any point are we allowed to switch off our teacher button?  What are your thoughts on this?

About jcorbinh

I am a grade 8 teacher who absolutely love teaching language and math and would find it extremely stressful if I had to choose between the two. After 20 years of teaching I am still passionate about my job and enjoy learning new things with and from my students. I try to incorporate new things to motivate and encourage my students and integrating more technology into my lessons has become one of my major goals.
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11 Responses to How much parent communication is too much?

  1. Paul says:

    Great post, JoAnn,
    I agree with the thinking about maintaining balance and individualizing your communication as each situation requires. I think many parents would be satisfied with the monthly group update and communication on an individual basis as needed. Since our parents are as diverse as our students, maybe there is some merit in the idea of seeking their input to determine how much communication they would like (within reason). I have always told parents that I don’t mind regular communication as long as parents share the load by responding in the dialogue and as long as my communications are being acted on and are leading to better outcomes. Perhaps your group emails could have a question for parents to answer or an invitation for a personal email from them. If they are making an effort as well then I think it is truly a dialogue. Hopefully, communication can be more of a collaboration versus a teacher monologue.

    • jcorbinh says:

      Thanks for responding Paul. After some interesting feedback on Twitter today I also decided to get the students more involved. Once a week, students will choose 1 area of learning that they will like to share with their parents and what they think their level of understanding is on the concept. They will also cc me on the email. This will be used later for self-regulation (setting goals & self-reflection). We will also use it as a language activity – as they will edit their emails before mailing them out. Will discuss my plan with them tomorrow and get some feedback from them before I start on them.

  2. Kristi Bishop says:

    Hi Jo-Ann, a great post. Parent communication is important, but so is balance. I think I would first question that parent and ask what information/communication he/she finds lacking. Knowing that you are also teaching intermediate students who should be taking ownership of their learning and are regularly provided with key feedback from you, how much of that communication should and could be the responsibility of the student? I always find it interesting to see discrepancies across schools about parent communication. My own home grown kids have (so far) spent 35 collective years in elementary school and in all of that time I have only ever had one phone call home from a teacher, and only had access to one web site (for 1 kid, for 1 year). And I am totally ok with that. If I have a question, I first ask my child, then if further clarity is needed, I send a note in the agenda for the teacher. Taking on my responsibility as a parent to find avenues to understand my child’s progress starts with me and my child.
    Parent communication isn’t always teacher to parent. It’s also student to parent, school to parent, and parent to school. I think you have a well thought out and transparent system of parent communication. There may be circumstances with a specific child that warrants more, or less, support, but that is determined by circumstances. And though you don’t mention this in Your post, I know you do adapt to the needs of your students and do provide additional communication when needed.
    I think it would be interesting for you to hear how varied expectations are around parent communication. Keep up the good work.

    • jcorbinh says:

      Thanks Kristi. There are some parents that I email almost every other day and there are others that I have only done on a monthly basis. Totally think it decides on the student. Like your description of parent communication. So true.

  3. Aviva says:

    Jo-Ann, you make some interesting points here. As you know, I’m a huge believer in parent/teacher communication, and I tend to argue that there isn’t such a thing as “too much.” I think variety matters, as then parents can choose the option that works best for them. If a parent is asking for more frequent communication, I might ask, “Why?” What information is lacking? I wonder if your Grade 8’s could help with this communication once a week — through a self-reflection or an email that they send — and then you could do your monthly notes. Would this help? Maybe the parents are looking for more informational items, and then a group email would suffice. If parent/teacher communication is supposed to benefit both parties, then maybe we need to have more open discussions on this topic (in all schools). We may be surprised on what parents really want from this communication and what teachers want too.

    Teaching is not an easy job (per se), but as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best possible job out there. I don’t communicate with parents because I feel the pressure to. I do so because I love this time connecting with them. I think that the more that we connect, and the more we can work together, the more students benefit. And it’s these thoughts that I keep in mind each week as I do communicate with parents because I think perspective matters. I’d be curious to hear what others have to say about this!

    Aviva

    • jcorbinh says:

      I do agree with some of your points Aviva but I do disagree with your comment “there isn’t such a thing as “too much.””. I will argue that sometimes it can be ‘too much’. I know this because just last week my husband asked me to put down the computer as I had been emailing parents for a while. I know there is too much when a parent wants me to email or write in the agenda everyday because their child is not filling in the agenda themselves or because their child might be lying to them about homework and they want me to check that he has written it down. Even though I too write it on the website. I also know that it is too much when I sent home a paper copy of some websites (because the parent hadn’t sent in their email but then asked for me to call him just he could tell me that he had to type in the website address from the paper copy so he needed me to email them to him. I know that these are just instances and I shouldn’t generalize but I guess it’s once of those days when I just feel like sometimes no matter what we do it’s never enough.

      • Aviva says:

        Jo-Ann, I can see your point, but I’d ask you these questions instead:

        Why are you sending out the emails? Do you feel pressure to do so? Why?
        How can we differentiate for our parents when it comes to communication? We speak all the time about one method not working for kids. Maybe it doesn’t work for parents either.
        What other information do parents want to know, & why do they feel as though the communication is not enough?
        What do you need to share with parents, & what might students be able to share?

        Maybe all of these emails don’t need to come from you. I think that getting some input from parents (especially concerning the reasons behind their requests may help). I can’t help but wonder if they want to hear from you once a week or just want to hear more about how their child is doing. This could come from the child … Just some further thoughts!

        Aviva

        • jcorbinh says:

          Aviva, I do not feel pressured at all. I want my parents to know how their child is progressing both socially and academically in my class. They seem to be questioning their child’s ability to adequately share what they are learning and how they are behaving in the classroom. Last year @mrsoclassroom commented about students emailing parents weekly to share what they have learned at school and cc. the teacher on their email. This might be the answer to those parents who seek frequent feedback that I can’t always provide. I could also use this in their google drive folder as evidence of self regulation (goal setting and self-reflection).

          • Aviva says:

            Jo-Ann, I think your idea is a wonderful one. Scott Kemp spoke about this last year at ECOO, & I tried a modified version with my Grade 5’s after that. It worked really well, and helped the kids communicate more with their parents. I wonder if the students aren’t communicating as much as thy could. This could be a great opportunity for self-reflection and help with this parent communication piece. Then you could still send out your monthly emails, but knowing that parents are hearing more in between these times too.

            Aviva

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