As we continue to move through a second school year with COVID-19 firmly at the forefront, communication between schools and parents—and specifically, parent-teacher communication—is more important than ever.
In fact, it’s one of the pandemic’s bright spots. According to a survey by the EdWeek Research Center, more than three-quarters of educators said parent-school communication increased during the pandemic, and over a third—37%—said it increased “a lot.” The data also shows that the context of the communication changed, shifting away from reports of disciplinary actions and missed homework assignments to a focus on children’s individual learning needs—and how parents and teachers could work together to make sure children continue to learn and grow.
With this increase in family engagement, it makes sense that schools and teachers would want to harness it through a variety of communications channels—with texting at the top of that list. After all, cell phones and text messaging are prevalent among many parents and teachers. The conversation can be initiated immediately, and there’s no additional technology to learn.
This brings up the age-old question (well, as old as cell phones and text messages are, anyway): Should teachers feel compelled to give out their personal cell phone numbers to parents and students?
The answer, of course, is no. There’s no doubt that teachers want to be available to students and parents, especially as remote and hybrid learning is still a reality for many of our schools. However, teachers also need to have a bit of separation between their personal and professional lives—and around-the-clock texts don’t help to establish boundaries or promote well-being. On the other hand, providing cell phones—and individual plans—for an entire staff of teachers is cost-prohibitive for schools and districts, which might be weathering budget cuts due to the pandemic and have more pressing needs to attend to first.
Secure messaging platforms: All the engagement without a teacher’s personal phone number
Thanks to school text messaging services like SchoolMessenger, parents can engage in two-way conversations with both individuals (i.e. teachers) and groups (i.e. classes, sports teams, PTO groups, and more). These messages are sent privately and securely via the SchoolMessenger app, fulfilling the need for one-to-one communication between parents and teachers while still keeping a teacher’s personal information private.
Here are just a few reasons to consider implementing a secure messaging platform for parent-teacher communications:
To promote equity
Great communication means being able to meet people where they are—and text messaging services do just that. 97% of Americans own a cell phone of some kind, and 85% own a smartphone. Even if a parent doesn’t have a computer or high-speed internet at home, they’re likely to have a phone where they can send and receive messages and download apps. For underserved or low-income populations, texting is often a more accessible—and lower cost—option.
To increase safety and maintain privacy
While it’s not something that’s fun to think about, legal disputes around school communications do happen. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits what schools and teachers can communicate about students, and to whom they can communicate. School text messaging services help with this compliance by recording and archiving all text messages teachers and parents send to each other. Additionally, these services can contribute to a sense of safety for your teachers. If a conflict between parents and teachers were to arise, taking a teachers’ personal information out of the communications equation would help create some distance.
To maintain work-life balance
Work-life balance means something different to individual teachers and educators, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something to strive for. Teachers need the time and space to care for their families and themselves, and feeling tethered to their phones can eat away at their personal time. Utilizing a secure messaging platform means teachers can set a physical boundary between themselves, their students, and their parents when they need to, reducing the chance of burnout and ultimately helping them show up in the way their students need.
To improve engagement and advocacy
Because texting and cell phone app usage are so prominent in our day-to-day lives, it’s easier for teachers and parents to engage immediately. Teachers can let parents know what they’re seeing in the classroom, and parents can also reach out to teachers to advocate for their children or get the extra support they need.
This EdSurge article focuses on how special education parents were able to better interact with their child’s teachers through technology during the pandemic. One teacher was quoted as saying, “Normally, I would never text a parent in the middle of the day. I would see if something is a problem and ponder it and whether I really want to contact the parent. But now I’m texting.” When situations can be discussed in real time between teachers and parents, everybody wins—most of all, the students.
Text messaging is a great way to build relationships between teachers and parents, which ultimately improves student outcomes. School text messaging services ensure both sides are comfortable with the communication.