I don't know about you, but one of the most frustrating things as a teacher can be continually answering questions about information that you have already sent out to parents. Many times, we may even have communicated that information multiple times and through multiple mediums. My team and I experienced this frustration last year and so we decided to do some self-reflection! I'm hoping that what we discovered will help you and your team as you are putting together your weekly emails or newsletters!
Last February, I can across a post by Jennifer Gonzales, from Cult of Pedagogy. In her guest post on Corkboard Connections titled Why No One Reads Your Classroom Newsletter, she laid out some great basic concepts that keep parents from reading our communication thoroughly! I encourage you to check out this post!
I teach 4th grade, and while we don't have classroom newsletter, my team does send home weekly parent communication e-mails. After reading the blog post, we took some her ideas about the newsletters, discussed what was working for us and what wasn't, and revamped our e-mails! Here is what we have learned!
As teachers, there is never enough time in the day. We work so hard. For most of us working harder is not an option...because we already DO! So, we need to work smarter! If you collaborate with a team in building your weekly communication to parents, build it together in a google doc! Why waste time writing the items to remember in a notebook only having to retype it later on? Why write all your important info on sticky notes to remind you what to type later? Share a google doc with your team and as you have time, add to it. Don't recreate or rewrite something that can be done only once! Work smarter!Consistency is key here! The subject line of your weekly e-mail should be the same each week. Let's face it, we are all creatures of habit. We want to know what we are getting and how to expect it. Our parents are no different. My parents knew that each Friday they would get a Fourth Grade Updates e-mail. Send the e-mail on the same day each week. We sent our weekly e-mails on Friday before we left for the weekend, that way parents knew what was up and coming for the following week. Also, we found that if we sent more than one mass e-mail per week, parents were picking and choosing what parts of each e-mail to read. Save your content and send it out in one finely tuned e-mail per week.
Keep the main point the MAIN POINT! The main purpose for our mass e-mail communication last year was focused on academics. We wanted to give parents a "peek at our week." This is the part of our e-mail that stood out the most. Notice I said PEEK...not everything! Those that want more info could click on our website links at the bottom of the e-mail. Sure we included other school happenings and dates in our weekly communication, but we wanted parents to know the WHAT that was going on inside the classroom walls! Many other school events and dates are communicated through school folders, school call-outs, etc. You can still include other information in your weekly email, but keep the focus on whatever content you have deemed most important.
Does your email or newsletter have too much clutter? Do you have too many graphics or are you restating the same information over and over? Although our emails didn't appear cluttered, we had A LOT of words. Even the bullet points didn't help that large clump of reading. YIKES. Jennifer from The Cult of Pedagogy says, "If you want them to read your newsletter, write in columns." She also discusses the importance of white space. We took this to heart for our emails, too! Take a look!
All of the tidbits above help to clarify the point that it's ALL about the AESTHETICS! If you take the time to plan out your weekly emails instead of throwing your thoughts and information together quickly, it will pay off! Ask yourself, would I want to read my own e-mail? Work towards a clear, concise, and consistent message to parents!
What have you found that works well in your communication with parents? I'd love to know some of your tips and tricks!!