Building Positive Relationships with Families, Part 2: Save Time While Connecting
In the last post, we learned that 1. building family relationships is hard and 2. it's worth it because families are super helpful. Hopefully you've already heard somewhere along the way that "a positive contact early in the year makes a negative contact later a lot easier to deal with," so I won't belabor that point. Just know that it's no joke: reaching out early and kind-of-but-not-too often truly is your best bet for happy family convos even in tough times. So how do you do that without absolutely destroying yourself?
Here's what's up: not all families communicate in the same way. You're probably like that, too. For example, I love a good text thread, but phone calls and especially voicemails leave me cold and clammy. For years I got a bad rap for "never checking your personal email."
Families are similar. Before you spend hours finding or building a cute newsletter template, consider the audience: are they even going to read this thing? How? Why? If they've only got 8 seconds of attention and two screaming toddlers on their legs, what do they NEED to know and how can you communicate that quickly? (Don't blog. No one reads blogs anymore. 😉) **Note: phone calls are your #1 most powerful tool for connecting with families, but they are also hella big time commitments. Use them wisely. Or when you just have a lot of spare time.**
Instead of eye-catching graphics, consider KISS - you know, "Keep It Simple, S____."
➡What can you write quickly that can be sent in the following three formats: email, text, and image (png or pdf)?
➡Remember the 8 seconds with screaming toddlers scenario: what's the most critical information to share? Can you put it at the top? Maybe in bold letters?
This is gonna sound crazy, but I'm serious: writing a group message to families shouldn't take more than about 10 minutes. If you're writing or revising for 15 minutes or more, you're losing viewers. I say this as a chronic over-writer: Keep. It. Freakin'. Short.
Once you've typed something up, how are you going to actually send it? Email lists are effective, though they take time to build at the beginning. Unless your gradebook or school secretary are AWESOME and build the list for you. If that's the case, boom! Option one is covered. Copy, paste, send, done. Just please, for the love of sanity, use the BCC option to include multiple people. I've been chewed out for "sharing my private email address!!" because I forgot to use BCC.
Regarding texts and images: some people prefer to skim an image of words rather than an actual text message. It has something to do with phone set up and data usage, I think. For this purpose, I really like Remind.com. It's the easiest, most intuitive system I've used to date.
I've also used Class Dojo, Classcraft, and ClassTag. Of those, I liked ClassTag best because it allowed families to choose their native language to receive translated messages. 💡You do have to be careful to select the "no ads" version of ClassTag, though, or it will start each of your messages with an ad from a sponsor. That wasn't cool.
Finally, remember to budget your time.
➡If writing takes 10 minutes
➡Formatting / sending in email and a messaging service takes 15 minutes
➡5 families write back so you need to respond for 5 minutes each so that's another 25 minutes
Then you've already spend 50 minutes on family communications, and that's only counting the message you initiated. Time is a limited resource. Use yours wisely.
Above all, remember this:
Building positive relationships with families can make your life as a teacher vastly easier. The trick is to spend enough time (not too much time) nurturing those relationships. Everyone wants to feel valued and heard, but parents are also crazy busy. Don't worry too much if your efforts seem to be ignored. Just keep at it, and do so wisely.
Until next time,
P.S. Many thanks again to @journeytomisshill on Instagram for inspiring this post
When it comes to communicating with 25 - 75 families, value efficiency over visual appeal. Find a way to communicate regularly and reliably so families can reach you when they need to, and learn to be ok with "good enough." The information you share (and how easy it is to access) is way more important than how cool it looks.