Martin Suarez – Challenges in school communications

Martin Suarez – Physics teacher
UWC S.E. Asia

Communication with parents really depends on the size of the school. For small schools, communication comes naturally. However, bigger schools require a strategy and UWCSEA has a great one.

One of the main things that UWCSEA does that encourages open communication with parents is requiring teachers to meet with the parents of their students after the third week back at school. Normally this would be in person but obviously due to COVID-19, last year and this year teachers made introduction videos to establish a relationship between the teachers and parents, which also helped them put a face to the name. For example, in my video I introduce myself, my teaching space and my teaching style. Some teachers use this opportunity to talk through the syllabus and upcoming events and deadlines, but I think that it is beneficial for the parents to make it more personal.

These initial videos encourage trust and communication from parent to teacher and start this relationship off on the right foot. I have quite a unique teaching style and incorporate meditation and wellbeing into my day-to-day teaching, and I take the opportunity through this video to explain this style and the importance of mentally well classrooms. These videos also help alleviate a lot of anxiety and stress that parents may have, especially if their child is new at the school or if they have never met the teacher before.

Apart from these introduction meetings and videos, UWCSEA also encourages 3-way conferences between teachers, parents and students. These meetings are often seen mainly as an opportunity for parents to air grievances and can often be seen as an exhausting all-day event for teachers. However, these meetings are important as they are an opportunity for teachers to communicate with students as well as parents, and here, students are encouraged to do the talking and not just the listening.

UWCSEA has an internal system in place when dealing with parents who might have specific complaints about a specific teacher or member of staff. A meeting is always encouraged between the two, as well as a member of the senior leadership team. I believe that is not beneficial to have an interim person that deals with communications between teachers and parents, and it is far better if parents have enough trust to go straight to the teacher if they have an issue or concern.

Parents have formed their own communication groups, mainly through WhatsApp, but these are often just spaces for parents to voice their complaints and are rarely positive spaces.

Communication with parents should be encouraged and used as opportunities to promote positive attitudes and behaviors. This is especially true if students aren’t particularly strong academically. My strategies of communicating with parents has resulted in me creating strong relationships with parents, including being invited for dinners at student’s houses and to events with them and their families.

One thing that I do struggle with is the pressure that parents put on their children. Especially with fee paying schools, parents put a lot of pressure on their children to succeed academically, and not enough concern is put on their mental wellbeing.

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