These days, there is a wide variety of ways and means for educators to reach their target audience—students and their families. From emails to school websites and group texts to school social media platforms and apps, the options are nearly endless. So, how do you and your school decide which routes of communication are best for your school community?
Teacher Sites Can Improve Teacher-Parent Relationships
Your school and district websites are essential PR tools, but since they must reach a large audience that encompasses your entire community, they serve distinct purposes and functions.
In contrast, the sole audience for teacher sites is current students and their families. You may ask, “Is a teacher website worth it for such a limited audience?” The answer is yes!
Because parent-teacher relationships are so important for school public relations, they need constant nurturing. And because the audience for teacher websites is so narrow, teacher sites can focus on that ever-important public relations facet—nurturing teacher-parent relationships!
We recently asked a group of parents what they wished schools would better communicate. Their answer may surprise you. Parents want to know more about opportunities to volunteer and participate at their kids’ schools, and, more than anything, they want to be kept in the loop of what’s going on in the classroom.
Teachers dedicate the majority of their time to teaching critical lessons. A teacher sees students every day and has his or her finger on the pulse of the classroom. So, teacher sites are ideal grassroots communication tools. That is, they can advocate for parent engagement at the ground level.
Classroom-level communication is too specific for a district or even a school website—but a teacher site is the perfect home for it! At School Webmasters, we believe it’s possible and vital for you as educators to successfully bridge the communication gap between you and your school community. Effectively using your teacher website will help you do it.
Best Practices for Teacher Sites
Teachers will want to use websites to help satisfy the common needs of their students and families throughout the school year. Here are some best practice tips when it comes to establishing a trusted teacher website.
Keep it current.
The biggest issue with a teacher site? Keeping it updated! This is hard for busy teachers, but consider this: What is your gut response when you visit a website that appears to be outdated? Calendars left empty, newsletters irregularly posted, or old photographs of past students scream “not up-to-date.” Your teacher website is like your professional resume, and keeping it updated is important to your personal brand.
What are teachers most often asked? Where do communication issues most often stem from?
If you’re not sure where to start with your teacher site, start with these questions. You can also seek input from parents. In fact, it’s smart to engage parents and meet their needs by sending out a survey and asking for their input.
Keep a current calendar.
Calendars are a great way to share news and announcements as well as provide advance notice to help parents plan for participation in events. Classroom calendars can include due dates, important deadlines, student birthdays, and other class-related events like assemblies or field trips.
Use photo galleries.
Images from the classroom not only speak a thousand words, but they also build school loyalty and strengthen your school’s brand. As teachers regularly post images from the classroom, parents feel more connected to their child’s education. Showing off student work and highlighting classroom successes brings the classroom home in a personal way.
Teachers are incredibly busy and may feel they barely have time to keep a classroom website updated, let alone take and post photos. But think of your teacher site as a kind of “online resume.” It is to a teacher’s benefit to show the great things happening in your class.
Post lesson plans.
Are there critical lessons you wish you had a bit more time to share with students? Help parents support students at home by allowing them to better understand the important concepts you are currently teaching in the classroom. Teacher websites are a great place to share added information about hard-to-tackle topics so families understand how to support their children in their journey to learn. Teacher websites are also a great place to fight jargon monoxide. Parents may not feel comfortable acknowledging that they don’t understand all of the educational vocabulary used at parent-teacher conferences or elsewhere on campus, and your teacher site can serve as a subtle education plan for parents as well.
Keep a homework page.
Depending on the age-level of the class, there will be varying degrees of need when it comes to providing homework help online. Many schools use resources such as Big Ideas, Canvas, and Aleks to turn in homework. While most school districts have parent portals to track student report cards and attendance, teacher websites offer easy access to homework tools for those common moments at home when a child forgets the assignment.
Share resources—links, research, etc.
Teacher websites can be a treasury of inside as well as credible outside resources to help connect students and their families. By so doing, teachers help bring the classroom and education into their students’ homes. Teachers can easily share an unlimited amount of information such as outside links or YouTube videos, which enhance or encourage further learning at home and at school.
Publish class schedules.
When is lunch? What time is school out on early release days? Aside from the school district calendar, class schedules are in high demand in every home. When it comes to scheduling a doctor’s appointment during lunch, figuring out what time orchestra is so parents can drop off the forgotten instrument on time, considering when to show up at school to eat with their child, or a myriad of other reasons, making this information quick and easy for families to locate online is a must.
What Makes Teacher Websites Effective?
Teacher sites act as a specific and detailed service for teachers and parents. At the beginning of every school year, teachers communicate a host of valuable information and expectations. This shared information helps families to prepare better to support the school’s efforts to set students up for a successful journey throughout the school year. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, it can be a challenge for families to keep track of all this communication. They know they’ve seen or heard it before—maybe in an email, on a flyer, or at a parent-teacher conference, but where do they find that information now?
With a teacher site, teachers can post announcements, classroom rules, lesson plans, permission forms, classroom wish lists, opportunities to volunteer, etc. Having communications in one dedicated place saves parents the hassle of keeping track of paper announcements and the stress of worrying they may have missed something.
The content of your teacher site is most important. Here are a few other tips to make your teacher site as effective as possible:
Make it mobile.
When it comes to successfully communicating with your school community as a whole and equitably, you have to meet them where they already are. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that communication via mobile devices is most likely to reach parents where they are. Teacher websites designed by School Webmasters are mobile-friendly both for teachers uploading and editing information as well as for parents and families looking for it. No software is required to use the website, and teachers can update from wherever they have internet access.
Teacher websites from School Webmasters are designed to simultaneously and easily reflect personality and professionalism. As teachers use various designs and images, they further solidify the school brand and contribute to a deeper connection between school and home. Do some families in your school district have children of various ages? Every teacher website should reflect the class grade level and the teacher’s personality.
Balanced, thoughtful communication will not only get your message across but will also help your students’ families recognize rewarding aspects of belonging to your school community, particularly online. Offering a wide variety of reasons for parents to seek out your teacher website and have it act as a portal to the district website will foster trust within your school community. Families will have a window into the classroom when they can see photographs of their children engaged in learning and access explanations of the key concepts that are being taught. It’s a win for everyone!
Worth the Effort
Sharing details regarding various class-specific information on a dedicated site is more desirable to nurturing parent engagement than using the school or district website. Consider the cluttered mess a school website’s Home page would be if it were to post the goings and comings of every classroom! Following these principles will help you and your school offer students and their families an opportunity to be better connected.
With the many school communication options to choose from these days, sagacious school educators will simplify their methods, thereby strengthening their school public relations. Rather than overwhelming students’ families with a barrage of messages via the internet and elsewhere, successful schools approach communication strategically and respectfully.
Prudent school leaders recognize the varying schedules and situations of families striving to care for their children. They also help families understand the important roles school personnel play in the lives of the students. As schools actively communicate with families using resources such as teacher websites, schools build a respected rapport between home and school as well as a stronger school brand. Effectively and specifically communicating with your school community will bring about great results. Your school community will know where to look for answers. They will appreciate you. You will earn their trust and confidence.
Emily Boyle, School Content Specialist