Tool for the Field: Planning for Communication with Parents


Most teachers and administrators are uncomfortable with the idea that paraprofessionals might take the lead—even if not on purpose—in communicating with parents. Some districts have policies that make it clear that communicating with parents is the responsibility of teachers and administrators, not paraprofessionals.

But everyone recognizes that parents will often communicate with parapros. No one can stop them! Communicating—talking—is an entirely human phenomenon. It happens on the fly, on the spur of the moment. So you likely already do talk with parents sometimes … or often.

This tool takes the view that in these interactions you will be working with a team (even if the team is just you and your teacher), and that the teachers and administrators on the team have primary responsibility for communicating with parents. Just as paraprofessionals’ role in instruction is to reinforce classroom lessons—that is, to help teach—a logical role for the parapro is to help the teacher communicate with parents.

Some of you will have probably had a conversation with your team (even if it is just you and your teacher) about your role in communicating with parents. But many of you will not.

This tool helps you have the conversation. Talking about the issue can be tricky, in some cases, but no one should blame you for raising the issue—for asking how you can help teachers communicate well with parents!

The Plan

  1. Before you raise the issue, sketch out some important questions. Then you’ll really be ready for a discussion. Here are some common questions:
    • What kinds of things are we already doing?
    • What kinds of things can we do in addition to what we are already doing?
    • What roles might I play in this effort?
    • Here’s what my experience talking with parents is like. What suggestions do you have for me?
    • Does the district have a policy for paraprofessionals’ communication with parents? Can we talk about it? Can we offer suggestions to improve it?
  2. Raise the question.  You can do this in many ways.
    • Indirectly—for instance: “Mrs. Ahmed asked me about Jamil’s homework, and I didn’t know what to say. This comes up a lot, actually. Do you have any ideas?”
    • Casually—for instance: “What can I do to help us communicate better with parents?” You might add that you’ve been looking into the issue and are wondering. You can use this unit’s Links for More Information to actually look into the issue!
    • Or you might take a more formal approach: “I’m concerned about how we communicate with parents and what I can do to help. Can we schedule a time to talk about this?”
  3. Try to identify one concrete step to take as a result of the conversation or meeting. Even if it is just more discussion. If nothing happens, don’t give up.
  4. You’ll have other chances to raise the issue again if nothing happens the first time. Why? Organizational life is like that. Unaddressed issues cry out repeatedly for attention. Eventually the squeaky wheel gets some grease.