Effective parent-teacher communication can be considered an essential factor in helping a student succeed. That is why schools are always looking for ways to communicate with families, keeping them up-to-date on all of the things going on in the classroom. But in this age of mobile applications, where we are all overloaded with incoming data and requests, how much is too much?
Parents weigh in
Yasmin Carey, parent of a toddler attending Ranches Primary Nursery, enjoys the broad range of communication on offer, explaining: “ Our nursery uses Seesaw and it is updated daily. Content shared by teachers takes in pictures, videos, updates, notifications, and schedules. They do both forms of communication, electronic and face-to-face. I feel this is so important, especially to track development and discuss progress and behaviour. I prefer using Seesaw on a day-to-day basis for pictures and notifications, as it is super flexible and easy to access. There is also a communication trail.”
Dushyant Nagpal, parent at Dubai International Academy – Al Barsha, says: “Since my son is only 4, he hardly tells us what happened in school. We get all the information from the school either via email or through the web portal that is updated everyday with pictures and feedback. I find it very helpful.”
Deesha Bhagtani, parent at Dubai British School Jumeriah Park, says: “Back in India the access to communicate with a teacher through mails was not available two years back. Communication here is much easier and faster, as teachers are very prompt, observant, and helpful which is a great support for your child’s academic development.”
Hosna Abdulrahman Rahmannia, who will be graduating from North American International School this year feels that it’s important for parents to be aware of what and how well students are doing at school. “My parents check our application Classdojo almost every day since it is on their phone and it’s easily accessible for them. It is helpful for both parents and schools to keep communication regarding the wellbeing of students.”
An English coordinator at Horizon Private School – Branch, Abu Dhabi, Magda Atlas agrees regular communication is necessary, but has a caveat, saying: “Technology used for communication purposes is a blessing, especially for those who have hectic daily schedules. Schools should definitely implement some kind of app to keep communication between schools and parents running smoothly. However, there is a real danger of overdoing it and over-communicating might take place if there are too many channels open for reaching parents. In such cases, it might be really confusing for parents and counter-productive for the school.”
This caveat is elaborated on by Dr Heena Rachh, Principal at Global Indian International School (GIIS) Abu Dhabi, who says: “Communication is essential, there is no denying that. But I strongly feel that over communication at any level tends to slow down processes and provides room for confusion. We have been victims of over communication in the past amongst our teachers and parents, but have successfully identified how to control our communication channels to ensure more affective outcomes. At GIIS, communication via email with a call-back request works best. It allows both parties to reach a satisfying resolution to a subject. Moreover, everything stays on record and eliminates any loss of information. GIIS has its own parent portal called ‘Mygiis’, which allows parents to address their concerns and feedback to the right individual. We also have an app called ‘Class Dojo’, which is an interactive platform where teachers, students, and parents can freely share and access resources. We have quarterly parent-teacher meetings, helping to streamline communication.”
Lucy Thompson, Head of Primary IT at Aldar Academies Al Yasmina Academy, also feels that technology can only take communication so far: “Many of our communications take place through our Parent Portal, alongside the use of Outlook and WhatsApp. As a class teacher, I find the quickest and easiest way to get information out to my students’ parents is through the WhatsApp parent group via our Parent Liaisons. However, it is to be used with caution – an app that is instantly accessible can become a nuisance when overused by teachers and parents alike. When it comes to more formal communications, Outlook provides teachers and parents with a platform to air their concerns and the time to respond. However, I think it is important for teachers to make sure they don’t lose face-to-face contact with parents and keep communications via technology to a minimum.”
Kathryn Allen, Principal at Aldar Academies Al Muna Academy, can see the pros and cons too, commenting: “As a parent and a principal, I can see the issue from different perspectives and they are certainly not juxtaposed. “Education is a partnership and parents are a child’s first educators. Teachers know that, and by sharing important information with parents about their child’s learning, home and school can work together to support the pupil. Regular updates about attainment, progress, and next-step targets are essential and can ensure that parents can encourage and assist their child at home. These need to be shared at suitable intervals, when re-assessments have been taken.
“Despite the huge benefits of the expanding range of communication strategies for parents and schools, there are some disadvantages. Over-communication can lead to families feeling overloaded and unsure of what information is most important. In addition, teachers need to be able to focus the vast majority of their working day caring for children and ensuring effective learning. Spending too much time prioritising the recording of activities and sharing with parents detracts from the daily focus on effective teaching.”
Finally, some schools prefer to ‘keep it simple’ with regards to technology, with Ramzi Germanos, Regional Director of SABIS, a global education network, stating: “In our schools, relevant information is available for parents and students directly on the web. When meetings between parents and administrators are useful, we arrange for appointments. But if parents at other schools feel happy to use various applications, then why not?”