primary, class, classroom, teach, teacher, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, Teacher Toni, relationships, family, connections, voice, secret weapon

Well hi there, my joyful friend. Welcome to the Joyful in Primary community. My name is Toni, and it is my passion and purpose to spread my joy for being a primary teacher. You, my friend, are helping me fulfill that purpose just by being here. I hope this finds you healthy, happy, and enjoying your prestigious title as one of the best teachers ever. Today I’m sharing my secret weapon for family connections.

If you caught last week you know that I’m facing a very unusual year with a community and school building that is recovering from a historical flood and historical damage. Just a quick update: I have spent the last six days in my classroom. And we have only two days until we go back to teaching, back to the classroom. Can you imagine a completely gutted school and classroom needing a complete overhaul in only six days? I am vlogging about this journey, and I hope to have that up on YouTube soon. So if you’re interested to see what this journey has been like and what my classroom looks like, subscribe to my YouTube channel. I hope to have that up for you within a week. 

Moving on to today’s content, I want you to know that even though your school year might be already well underway, my thoughts are still in these very first days. We go back in two days. So my thoughts are surrounding the most important work of all, which is building those family relationships that will serve me all year. But here’s the good news for you. I’ve also tailored this information to make sure it is completely relevant no matter what time of year or frame of mind you’re in right now.

My Secret Weapon to Supercharge Family Connections

Today’s topic is all about building those family relationships. And we can always use some work in that area. Within my professional development course called Joyful Teacher Academy, I have a whole module dedicated to relationships. It’s called Connect with Joy. As I was revisiting some of this content as I begin the new school year, I realized that I wanted to share one tip I provide my students within the lesson about connecting with families. This content is for them, but I wanted to share it here for everyone because it’s just oh so good and so powerful.

Whether you know it or not, teacher, there is one secret weapon within your care that has the power to supercharge our connections with families. It is deeply underutilized in our field, and I have focused on using it year after year to build connections that uplift, encourage, and even protect me in this career. 

Secret Weapons Aren’t Always That Secret…

The thing about most secret weapons is that sometimes there really isn’t anything mysterious or secret about them. For example, my secret weapon for getting my lesson plans done is to put my phone in another room. My secret weapon for having a peaceful, calm morning is to get up 30 minutes earlier than I really want to. I’m betting you have secret weapons in your life too that are actually not so secret, but unlock astounding results for you almost like finding a centuries old key to a hidden portal.

Those beautiful keys are actually all around us. We just don’t always see them or choose to pick them up. So when you hear about this secret weapon, I want you to keep this in mind, that sometimes the most powerful tools or strategies available to us are actually ordinary actions that have the capability to bring extraordinary results. 

This magical, top secret weapon that so many of us underuse and don’t recognize in our work to connect with families is simply our own voice. 

Your Voice is Powerful

Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.

Maya Angelou

This quote fits perfectly, absolutely hand in hand, with what I’ve learned from experience in my time as a teacher. We all know and understand that communication is key in relationships. No relationship can exist without communication, right? Now look around you, and more than likely at you, and see how we deliver the largest majority of our communication today. Of course, it’s through email, text messaging, and DMs, right? That is how my life works. It is just the reality in the generation that we live in.

Your Voice is More Personal than Text

And here is a personal example from my life. I’ve messaged my sister pretty often, but actually haven’t heard from her in over a month. She is one of the dearest creatures in my life. Yet, I haven’t heard her voice in that long. Seems pitiful, doesn’t it? But every now and then something awesome happens with my sister. Most of the time, we’re too busy to actually call each other. That is just fact. We both have big families, jobs, supper to cook and all of that.

But when we get to really missing each other and still don’t have the time, we send voice messages. It’s just a snippet of voice that replaces whatever we would have typed. Just like Maya Angelou said, it is the same words on a deeper level. It feels different, it’s digested differently, it is powerful. Just to further prove this point, I save all of the voice messages from my sister because her voice is so important and precious to me, I never want to lose it. So yes, I do believe that we under utilize our voice when connecting with families. And it steals away those connections, emotional experiences that could bring us more support, more connections and more joy in these relationships. 

Your Voice Shares Your Heart

One of my other favorite quotes says that the human voice is the instrument of the soul. If we want to blare the melodies in our hearts, for families to hear, we must use the correct instrument, we must utilize our voice. It is uniquely, beautifully designed and only belongs to you. And I’m sorry, friend, no email, no text or DM can represent your true intention, love and care like your voice can. 

And just in case you’re not sure how to do just that in building these relationships with families, or how to improve what you are already doing, I want to give you some ideas that can help you pull that secret weapon out and use it like a pro. The great news is that it’s not hard at all. It may be even easier most of the time, because typing documents and messages is sometimes a long process. So here are strategies that I use and love. And I hope you can try in the future to play more of that beautiful instrument for families to hear. 

Secret Weapon Strategy #1: Voice Messaging

Strategy number one is to use voice messaging. I know, I know. It’s obvious, right? But it isn’t natural to us at all until we make a habit of it. Plus, it isn’t always as convenient, especially if you’re like me and live in a house bursting with loud children. But yes, every single messaging app or tool that we use has the capability to record a voice message. The funny thing is it’s often much faster since I’ve created this habit and use it the majority of time when communicating with families. I prefer it.

As I said it’s not always appropriate. But if I have a lengthier message, it is much easier and much more effective. The response from parents is always more pronounced and full of appreciation. They feel like it took me more time and thought, but really it doesn’t. If you’re not sure how to utilize voice messaging in email or other apps do a quick Google search. For example, type in how to add audio messages to Gmail, Outlook or Facebook Messenger. I love, love, love using voice messaging rather than text. 

Secret Weapon Strategy #2: Video or Audio Newsletters

Strategy number two is to do video or audio newsletters and updates. I know most of us hate video, me included, but boy, are these methods effective. And the good news is they don’t have to be available to the public. You can share them only with those in your classroom. I mean, we were on video excessively during the virtual days, we should be a little bit used to it. But yes, when there is news, upcoming events or just important updates to share, it is really great to send an audio or video update to your families. I usually do this via our private Facebook group.

Usually, I do these directly after my students leave in the evening. I call it my video newsletter. I bullet point what I want to say, sit at my phone, and press record. You will never receive this kind of response from your paper newsletter, my friend. Families feel so connected to hear how much you care for their child and the things that are going on in your classroom. And just as a side note, I do still send a paper copy of this information home. Because I know many families rely on the printed dates and information to stay on track. But this extra step, which takes me less than 10 minutes per week, ensures that my voice is out there solidifying those connections.

And as a bonus tip, you can record these, upload to your Google Drive, and then generate a free QR code to insert with your paper newsletter, or just send that link through text. It is very versatile and can be adapted to however you like to communicate. So consider doing a video or at least an audio newsletter. Get that voice playing out there beautifully for everyone to hear. 

Secret Weapon Strategy #3: Phone Calls

The last tip I’ll share today is the use of good old fashioned phone calls. The first two tips are easy, very efficient when it comes to time. But this one, my friend, will open the secret compartment within a secret weapon if you choose to use it. It’s a big deal. And deep down we all know it. We feel like it is impossible to reach this one. But is it really like I said earlier about my sister, the voice messages are special. But man, oh man, an actual phone call can leave me feeling amazing, deeply connected, and appreciated. Because in those moments, I realize no matter how busy her life is, or my life is, our relationship is important enough to overcome those barriers.

Why can’t we give this gift of our voice, time, and full attention to our families by taking the time to call people more? I do make phone calls. And I’m sure that you do too. But most of the time, it’s only when absolutely necessary. I’m not just calling you out here, I’m calling out myself. Most of the time they’re concerning bad news or some need that has to be met immediately. It’s never just to connect. It is my goal to improve this this school year. And I’m encouraging you to do the same. 

My Phone Plan

So here is my plan. And maybe you can utilize it as well. I’ve taken my class list, and I’ve split it into four sections. And each week I’m going to tackle one of those. For now, I plan to make these calls before I leave the building each day, maybe one or two depending on how long it takes per day. I’ve also made a small list of points to talk about and questions to ask. Of course, I’ll always begin with sharing my adoration for them and their child. But I’ll also ask, “How is your child enjoying school? Do you have anything you’d like for me to know? Do you have any questions?”

This will ensure that I’m connecting with families every single month, getting to know them and providing that important evidence that they are my teammate this school year. I want to relay the message that, Hey, I can’t do this without you. I’ll also take notes and track these conversations so I can build on them the next time. And just so I’m holding myself accountable here, I plan to share my results after a few months, and I’ll let you know how it goes. It will take some new habit formation for me, but I know in the end, it will bring massive results. So wish me luck. And maybe try it with me. 

Use Your Secret Weapon!

And that wraps up all three strategies for using that secret weapon: your voice. Our voice is so powerful in building connections, families need to hear it in order to know, like, and trust you. This is Communication 101, but we’ve gotten away from this in our so called hectic, technology filled lives. Try one of these ideas or one of your own. But remember throughout the year to infuse that deeper meaning, to play that beautiful instrument, make that incredible loving voice of yours heard so families can connect with you more than ever, sweet teacher friend. 

If you love this content, don’t leave here today without signing up for the Joyful Teacher Academy waitlist. JTA is my signature professional development course for teachers looking to find joy in their career. It isn’t open now because I’m still focusing on my current group of students but will be available later this year. I’ll keep you updated. If you add your name and email to the wait list, it simply means you’ll be the first to be notified when doors are open again. And since you’re still here, I know the content of this course is something you’d love. 

With that, I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week and can use some of the ideas I’ve shared here to supercharge those family connections. Use that secret weapon, and until we meet again, go make a difference, my joyful teacher friend.