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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

How to Embrace Online Communication with Teachers

By Christina Katz

Thanks to technological advances, things have changed dramatically since parents were in school. Here are a few types of communication to expect as your child progresses from elementary school through high school.

Parent-Teacher Emails There are two types of teacher emails: group and individual. A teacher may regularly email all at once the parents of students in one type of class. For example, the choir teacher may send out mass emails to announce upcoming concerts. Swiftly ask questions and then add any pertinent info to your family calendar. If you notice any errors in communication, such as an incorrect date or time, kindly point out the error to the sender. However, do not offer grammatical advice or draw attention to innocuous typos. No one appreciates that. Teachers are busy people and they occasionally make mistakes, just like the rest of us.

A teacher may also privately reach out to the parents of one child. Don’t be alarmed if you get an email about your child’s behavior. You want to be informed when there is a reason for discussion, and your child’s teachers will let you know if there is. Don’t take teachers’ emails personally. Instead, see them as a way to keep up-to-date about a student’s behavior. Be as responsive and cooperative as you can, regardless of the issue. Remember that even good kids can act badly and that there is no such thing as a bad kid; there is only poor behavior. Calm collaboration and a focus on finding fast solutions can help teachers and parents get students cheerfully back on track.

Teacher Blogs Some teachers like to use blogs to post lessons, deadlines, and online resources. Teacher blogs are usually housed on the district’s website and are generally a safe, secure way for teachers and students to communicate. Blogs can be especially helpful if your child is trying to learn good organization habits, or if she or he misses class because of an illness or field trip. If the teacher is not using a blog, make sure your student has a planner and knows how to effectively use it.

Flipped Classrooms A flipped classroom means lessons are learned at home via videos or audios posted to a teacher blog or online classroom. Instead of the traditional model, where students use homework to practice what they’ve learned in class, students can practice in the classroom what they’ve learned on their own and thereby get more teacher support. It may take some time to adjust to this approach. Give it a fair chance; try to temper any automatic resistance you or your student may have to it. Don’t be surprised if your child ends up preferring this method in the long run.

Google Classroom Many schools encourage the use of Google Classroom, a versatile online platform that helps students express themselves and collaborate. Google Classroom is a password-protected service that makes everyone’s role easier by creating a paperless environment for the creation, sharing, distributing, and grading of assignments. Included in the online platform is Google Drive for the storage and distribution of documents; Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for document creation; Gmail for communication; and Google Calendar for scheduling. Using Google Classroom allows schools to consolidate a lot of class work into one universal online service. Some students will start using this platform as early as elementary school, so it’s wise for parents to watch online tutorial videos to familiarize themselves with it.

Social Media Groups Social media groups are a convenient way to broadcast information and quickly communicate on an ongoing basis. For example, a high school theater department may have a private Facebook drama club group that is administered by the school advisors and composed of current club members and member parents. Drama club officers might use the group to post announcements for upcoming outings and events. Parent volunteers might use a sign-up service like Sign-Up Genius to rally donations or fill time slots. The directors of upcoming plays or musicals can create subgroups of students and parents in order to share specific information only with relevant audiences. Consult your student handbook for your school’s social media policies, and encourage your student to be a good digital citizen no matter what methods of communication are in use. 

Christina Katz has cheerfully embraced technological advances since childhood. She received the very first iteration of the Macintosh computer when she matriculated college and has not looked back since.