Why I Send a Weekly Newsletter to Families

by | 10.21.20

Katie Pyne is a teacher in California. Follow her on Twitter @mskatiepyne.

Teachers all know that sometimes when a family member asks, “How was school?” a kid will just say “fine” and that’s it – and we also know that families need to hear a little more than that about what’s happening in our classroom communities! 

This is why I share a weekly newsletter with my students’ families – translated into the languages they speak at home – because I know that the more I open the door to my classroom and invite families in, the more supported my students will feel. By connecting with families, we can do so much to support our students’ success.

I know that for teachers like us, who already put so much energy into every moment with our kids, starting a newsletter might feel a little daunting. When I first started writing mine, I wasn’t sure what I was taking on! But I’ve found it surprisingly sustainable and more rewarding than I ever could have imagined – for me and for my students. Here’s how I do it:

I share a learning breakdown – and a peek into our classroom community.

In each newsletter, I give a summary of the week’s learning and what’s ahead. I include comments like, “On Wednesday, we tried this activity, and it didn’t go so well! Next time we’ll try it from a different angle,” and “We tackled this new idea, and this is where we’re going with it,” so families can get a real sense of what the learning experience was like for their kids. I also include a section of “Class Reminders,” where I share requests for families to check the events calendar on the class website, turn in a form and so on. My goal is to make them feel included and familiar with what their kids are learning – so when a homework question comes up or we connect for a conference, they already feel up to date. 

I include simple video tutorials.

Creating trust with my new learners is always vital, but this year, that has to include making them and their families feel comfortable in our virtual classroom. Every family has a different baseline of tech knowledge. When I share a glimpse of the new learning we’re diving into, I want families to feel excited – not worried that they might not know how to support their kids! So I’ve included quick video tutorials on how to log in, join video classes and find activities. By sharing not just what we’re doing but how we’re doing it, I can show families I’m there to support and include them every step of the way.

I provide translation to support every family.

My school community is diverse, and a lot of my students’ families are most comfortable communicating in languages I don’t speak – but I really wanted to make the newsletter feel accessible to them. I reached out to the greater community via our local library, Nextdoor and Facebook, asking if people might volunteer to translate, and hearing “Yes!” at every turn meant so much to me! Now every week, a group of retirees generously supports me with their translation skills. It’s a simple process for us, and it makes a huge difference to my kids’ families. 

I keep it sustainable.

To keep this simple each week, I always use the previous newsletter as a base. That saves a lot of time: When I sit down to write a summary of the math we studied, I’m looking at my summary from the week before, so it feels natural and quick to drop in an update. But for me, the true sustainability and value of this practice shows up elsewhere, in the most important place of all: my ability to support and inspire my students. Because I’m consistent in my communications with families, I can form a partnership with them. They send comments; they care; they’re truly part of what I’m doing in class – and that makes a profound difference to their kids. When my students are tackling a learning challenge, they know they have my encouragement and their families’ encouragement, and it’s incredible to see how much that empowers them to grow. 

As I invest in my students’ families, they invest in my teaching – and we all deepen our commitment to every kid. And that’s what this is all about. 

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