If you are looking for an effective way to communicate with parents that doesn't involve tons of set up or parents signing up for one more thing, then Google Voice is a great option to consider. And it's completely free!
1. Call, Text, Video Call & Send Pictures
If you have a Google account you can easily set up your own FREE phone line just for parent communication. This is a phone number assigned to you that is separate from your personal number. No reason to give out your personal phone number to parents! You don't need to contact your phone service provider, you just need a Google account to set up your Google Voice phone number.
When you sync your Google Voice number with your smart phone, you can take incoming calls, text parents, send pictures and even video call with your students. The best part is that when a call comes through your phone, you will be alerted that it's a call coming in from your Google Voice phone line, so you will automatically know that it's a parent and not a personal call.
2. Translation Features
One of the great things about Google Voice is the Google Translate features. This is a free translation service which translates words and phrases between English and over 100 languages. This is one benefit of using Google Voice over other apps, and provides an easier means for parents to stay in touch and help their children.
3. Feels More Personable
I have never been a fan of giving out my personal contact information to parents, so when my husband shared with me Google Voice, I knew this would be a great alternative. Because you are giving out a specific phone number and not asking parents to sign up for one more app, parents feel like they are being provided a more personal way to connect with you. It feels like you are handing out your personal number, but you're really handing out an alternative classroom phone number. You could still use your classroom phone number, but the benefit of using Google Voice is that you can text, send pictures, or even share links with parents.
4. Better Parent Communication
Parents are more likely to answer a call coming in from a Google Voice number than a blocked number. I used to use *67 but I feel parents are more receptive to an actual number coming through, and if they save your number in their contact list, they are even more likely to pick up a call. Parents who might not check their email or respond to an email in a timely manner, will often respond within a few minutes of a text. As well, all texts and calls are logged within Google so you can easily keep track of your parent communication.
5. Set Office Hours
Giving out a direct line of communication, doesn't mean that you have to communicate with parents 24 hours a day. With Google Voice you can set "do not disturb" hours. Many businesses use Google Voice, so you can set up your line with regular office hours.
With remote learning this year, parent communication might look a bit different but it doesn't mean you have to check your phone or take calls or text all day long. In fact, it's good to set boundaries. There's no reason to feel teacher guilt for setting office hours.
Parent communication is so important, yet it's not really something that gets covered in college. It took me quite a bit to get comfortable communicating with parents. If you're new to parent communication, I share 6 things that I've learned over the years as well as some tips in this blog post.