The welcome email should put the student and parent sat ease about the course. It should include information about locating information specific to the course that is needed before the first synchronous meeting. The date and time of this meeting should be included. The teacher’s contact information and office hours are important. Students should be guided to the syllabus, the checklist and logins for any supplements not housed in the content. This email is followed up as soon as possible with a phone call. The teacher can verify contact information and answer any questions the student and parents might have.
Personal notes are used for communications about student progress or other concerns the teacher has. A mass emailing can be used to notify students of changes in the checklist, changes in live class sessions and other course information that needs to be disseminated to all of the students in a class.
The teacher should carefully consider which stakeholders need to be notified of issues in the course or with students. The teacher needs to find out how the administration wants various stakeholders to be CC’d. In cases where the teacher is concerned about how to respond, especially to parents, the most productive and safest approach is to send a “martyr” copy to a supervisor and get some feedback.
In all cases, the teacher must follow the guidelines of the administration regarding communication. Email folders for specific groups or topics should be set up to file emails. Stakeholders who need to check on communications in a teacher’s email need to have an easily identifiable system for searching. I use the Seating Chart in D2L to log all non-email communications with students and their parents/guardians. This is another place the administration can gather information, if needed.
Email housed in the course is a primary method of communication. If sensitive issues are involved, a phone call is the first method to use. If parents are unreachable, a message asking them to call is one choice. Emailing and asking the parents to call is another. All phone calls should be followed up by a brief email outlining the important information from the call. A teacher needs to remember to always cover the bases.
Finally, whether in an email or phone call, the tone of the communication should always be appropriate. If you a angry or stressed about an issue, give yourself time to ramp down. Always let a questionable email sit for awhile. Reread, think and be sure before you hit “send.”
A method of communication that can be used with students and with parents/guardians is the live class platform. Often the teacher can get a better sense of what is happening with the parent. This is a great tool for what we called parent/teacher conferences in the ground schools. The student can be present, if that is desirable. So the only part of face to face communication that is missing is that our bodies are not in the same place and we cannot shake hands. So we find appropriate replacements for the physical warmth in our words and our voices.