Today’s all-digital world has seemed to pose many problems when it comes to student success. Virtual classrooms are becoming increasingly popular, and in some cities and states around the country, mandatory, as we all continue to try to fight the spread of COVID-19. 

The parent-teacher connection is something we, as educators, place on high value each year as we know that learning does not simply start and end in the classroom. While remote learning, digital access, and interpersonal connectivity may have presented challenges this year, we must learn from these opportunities and create better, technology-driven ways for teachers to effectively communicate with their students’ family members to ensure the success of our future generation.

While it may seem easy to provide online instructions and tutorials for parents to gain access to their student’s curriculum and notes or send a weekly email with student success reports, for many parents, the challenges remain overwhelming. We have heard them express their concern to our sending too many emails, not enough clear information, or simply not understanding the online platform enough to help their student when they need it. 

For teachers, the communication challenges can be overwhelming as well. As they try to learn how each student learns and communicates best, they must also navigate these learning and communication barriers with each parent. Teachers have a much more complex task on their hands now more than ever, and we must all learn new ways to communicate while also being compassionate to those who may need more attention and follow through. 

As we tread water during these difficult socio-economic times, we, as educators, must understand that a student best succeeds when they have a strong foundation at home. Now, more than ever, it is important to connect with our students’ families to ensure their ultimate success. 

Here are three ways in which we can improve our connection with all families:

 Show understanding.

Emphasize the importance of family connection and togetherness. Families are experiencing many complex issues that relate to the COVID-19 pandemic, whether there are concerns about health, job loss, financial stability, or something else, it is important that you show compassion to all of your students and their families during this turbulent time. 

Acknowledge their struggles and provide opportunities for students and families to share concerns or to adjust their workload if things get too heavy. Recognizing each family’s obstacles can help you become a better teacher when building a curriculum and feeling like your students might not be as present as you would like. 

Open more ways to communicate.

Ensure the parents of your students know how and when to contact you. Often, parents are working during your office hours. Perhaps it is important during these times to provide time to communicate once or twice a week after regular business hours. 

It is also important for families to feel comfortable with communication. Some prefer email or text, and others a phone call or face-to-face interaction. Provide a variety of ways for parents to reach out to you. 

Lastly, ensure you provide the opportunity for non-English speaking parents to communicate with you about their student. If you do not speak their language, find a colleague that may assist in breaking the communication barrier. They will feel more confident and comfortable in your ability as an educator, and you will feel confident that the curriculum is being reinforced at home.

Build a community.

Finally, while many of us are living and working remotely, the power of community has been lost. Develop a way for your students’ families to connect and grow with each other. A fantastic way to do this is to create a private Facebook group for the families. They can pose questions to each other and to you, they can communicate about their students’ struggles or successes, and you can easily communicate by sending messages each day. 

Another opportunity that exists in building a community among your families is by hosting monthly family Zoom meetings. You can create an agenda to review the curriculum your students have learned during that month, you can allow parents to pose questions or concerns, and you can even end it on a high note by hosting a fun, virtual game. 

We may be asking a lot of our educators this year more than any other time in the past, but we must all remember why we dove headfirst into this profession—we love our students, and we want to see them do great things. Make an effort to help them get through these tough times and I assure you that you will feel more successful because of it.