Communicating with parents is an important part of being an effective teacher. With modern technology, it’s easier now than ever. Cell phones, email, websites are all conveniences that facilitate communication between school and home. Even my grade book has gone high-tech and can be viewed by parents online. Unfortunately, many of my student’s families don’t have access to the Internet. I needed a way of keeping them informed and could answer the question I am most often asked, “How is my child doing in school?”
Busy parents who lack Internet access need an alternative strategy for monitoring their child’s progress in school. In order to help these families out, I designed a Current Grades Report (click on the image to download the PDF). This simple form gives them needed information in four categories:
- Assignment Completion
First things first – academics. My school uses a traditional letter grade system, which is what most of us grew up with and understand. I simply list a student’s grades as they are in my grade book on the day of the report. Even if there is one particular subject area that needs attention, I still list all of the grades. This is so that I’m not sending home a completely negative report. While there may certainly be areas of concern, there are also usually areas to celebrate. I’m not trying to punish a child with this information, but to share the “big picture” with families.
The next category is assignment completion, where I indicate if there are any late assignments not yet turned in. Like the first section, this could also be an area to celebrate if a child has turned in all of their assignments. If there are late assignments, however, this is probably a major reason why a student has a low grade. I allow my students to complete the assignment and turn it in without incurring any deductions. I want to encourage learning with the assignment, not use it as a tool to punish kids. There are other ways to deliver consequences to students without squelching the love of learning.
The conduct section addresses any behaviors that may be contributing to low grades. The behaviors listed reflect my classroom rules, but you could modify the report to include your specific rules. I also have a space for sharing any type of behavior that may be a factor that isn’t listed. Once again, sometimes a student can struggle academically while also showing excellent conduct so I want to reward such students by sharing with their families how they are meeting our school’s behavior expectations.
Practical Strategies for Parents
Finally, I never like to share information with families about a child’s grades (especially if those grades are bad) without also offering some suggestions for improvement. While all parents have gone through some form of schooling, not everyone is an educator. It’s important to give parents specific, practical strategies they can do with their child at home in order to improve their grades. Most parents are well-intentioned people who love their children and want to help them. It’s up to us as professionals to give them the tools they need to support their child’s education.
Communicating with Parents – A Worthy Investment
I always ask parents to sign and return the report, as well as offer any comments in return. This let’s me know that they have seen it and are aware of the situation as it now stands. Many of them write comments, which are helpful to me in understanding how I might continue to assist the child in their learning. I have had the best results if I send this report home with students on a Monday rather than right before the weekend or holiday break. Communicating with parents regularly about their child and offering them useful strategies to do at home goes a long way at fostering a sense of trust, respect and mutual accountability between parents and a teacher. I consider it a worthwhile investment of my time.