Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Multi-Faceted Approach to Engaging Parents

Educators must be experts in effective communication techniques, especially when it comes to parents and other key stakeholders.  As the times and tools have changed we now have a variety of means to disseminate information in a more efficient and cost-effective fashion.  In my experience I have identified 4 key principles that lay a foundation for communicating effectively with parents: transparency, honesty, accessibility, and flexibility.  As you will see, these four principles can be applied to the following strategies that are listed below:

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  1. Make your professional email and Twitter accounts available this way parents can contact you at their convenience.   If you have not created such an account for your school I highly recommend that you do.  During the beginning of each school year I send home a letter to all parents that provides detailed information on what Twitter is, how to create an account, and configuring the settings to receive SMS text messages.  This versatility, allowing parents to receive updates on their own terms, makes Twitter unlike any traditional communication tool that I’ve ever used as a principal. As far as transparency goes, is there any application more effective than Twitter?  In response to parent feedback I created an "Official" school account (NewMilfordHS).  The NMHS Twitter page includes a link to the school’s main website as well as our school’s colors, mascot and logo. This makes our page stand out to viewers and establishes a brand presence.  Information tweeted out from this account in real-time includes sports scores, special schedules, school news, student achievements, staff accomplishments, campus weather, and emergency information.
  2. Create your own website and include contact information, availability to meet with or speak to parents, extra help hours, student assignments, press, etc. This is also a great way to convey to parents your philosophy on education, professional accomplishments, and vision for helping students succeed.  My website can be viewed by clicking this link.
  3. Hold training workshops for parents.
  4. Call home on both positive and negative issues. 
  5. Share as many student and teacher accomplishments and success stories as possible.  Parents want and need to hear the great things happening in our buildings and classrooms. I do this through a monthly Principal's Report
  6.  Set up a separate phone number for parents using Google Voice.
  7. Make resources readily available for parents using a social bookmarking service.
  8. ALWAYS return parent phone calls and emails in a timely fashion!
  9. Invite parents into your classrooms/schools.
  10. Develop a school Facebook page to advertise events and provide up to date school information.  The NMHS Facebook page has now become our informational hub that parents have come to rely on.
  11. Institute a positive referral policy and make parents aware of when their child is recognized.
  12. Start a blog, let parents know about it, and encourage them to comment on your posts.  Blogs are fantastic communication tools where parents can get a glimpse into your educational life.  
  13. Look for other means to reach stakeholders. In my quest to create a paperless environment at NMHS I discovered ZippSlip.  This free solution not only allows my parents to sign and submit all school forms electronically, but it also provides me a portal to send email messages to my parents.  
If we’re going to succeed as a school, I’ve got to get several different stakeholder groups---parents, students, community leaders, and businesses---to buy into a set of core beliefs.  That means I’m constantly trying to craft messages that have resonance and to deliver those messages in ways that are likely to be heard.  In many ways, communication is the most important thing I do every day. These are just some ideas and strategies that I have either utilized during my six plus years as an educator or are going to implement.  I encourage you to share your thoughts on these ideas and some of the successful ways in which you have fostered positive lines of communication with your parents.


  1. Wow. Wish my kids could attend. All schools should have such a positive collaborative environment. Lucky parents, teachers, and students. Thanks for sharing

  2. Eric,

    Thanks for this, entering my first year add principal this will help focus my efforts. I currently have a student working with me to develop my new website.
    Jason (@JmarkeyAP)

  3. Eric,
    I am beginning a new position this fall, to rebuild a high school Entrepreneurship program. My intent is to use these tools to connect school, students, parents and community to find real projects for students to learn from and connect with their community. With so many things to do, where do I begin? Blog, webpage, facebook, twitter?

  4. Valerie,

    My advice to is pick one tool, master it, then move on to integrating others. For me that tools was Twitter. Don't make the same initial mistake that I did by trying to use everything at once.

  5. Valerie,

    I agree with Eric. I have found that parents can get overwhelmed with too many avenues of contact. Also, I wonder how you find time for your own family if you have 10 different ways for everyone and anyone to get a hold of you. There needs to be some balance.

  6. I am a mom of three kids out here in CA and I started posting pictures to Tumblr sites then I started a twitter for parents to follow along and be updated as news happens. With so many activities going on parents need to be able to know..."today is the skate party at 4 to 6"

    My first obstacle was getting the parents and teachers and principals to see what was being created but as I educated them they are very excited about the possiblities.

    I ended up topping it all off with This is a great place to centralize everything. I made boards for each grade in the hopes of next year the teachers will be able to pin their blogs to each grade so that parents can follow what is relevant to them. Also Pinterest is great because if the Principal is using the account they can add campus pictures, team spirit pictures with mascots, pictures with the principal... the ways to connect are now endless.

    Where you use to think...there is no way I can please this many parents and get to know can know connect on a more human they can get to know you and vice versa... check it out! Any questions I would be happy to help!!/SeacliffSeastar!/PreppyKPanthers!/PerryElementary

    1. Hi Kim,

      You probably don't need another tool for your parents however we have a private and secure communications tool, a mobile directory for all parents and teachers in a school to message/talk to each other privately and in groups within a school.

      Do you have a tool like this for Perry Elementary? Are there any schools nearby you that use such directories.


  7. Is there any way you could attach your Twitter guide that you send home to parents? Thank you.

  8. Chip: Send me an email at and I will get it to you.