Communications and Collaborations: A Back to School Guide for Teachers

Communications and Collaborations: A Back to School Guide for Teachers

This month’s entry is about communication with students and staff members for new teachers or those new to a building or system.

To ensure your return to school, or new teaching experience, goes more smoothly, make sure that there is a simple, reliable method for two-way digital communication between you and your students. This promotes student accountability, encourages academic success and makes life easier for everyone. It also creates a record of your communication with your students. There is never a doubt if you informed them or reminded them.

If you are new, find out if your school offers email accounts to students. Do they know how to access them? Who does? Do you know how to send a group email using this system? Is the email a function of your online gradebook or another application? If your school uses Google classroom, the communication mechanism is pretty simple. Google Classroom did some up updating this summer, so familiarize yourself with these updates, if you use it.

Make sure you know how to use all functions of your school system’s online gradebook. Most include communication functions that allow you to post homework and deadlines, send emails or texts as class messages and send parent communications to individuals or to a group. This gives you a quickly accessible record for face-to-face conferences. Using the official school email system when contacting parents is the best way to go. Learn to print grade reports for students, parents or administrators before you actually need to do it. Now, it will be simple if you are called to a last minute meeting.

If your school’s online gradebook does not have a communication function, or if you would like to send an additional method of communication, check out an app like Remind. This app allows you to send texts or emails to specific classes. It also translates messages into about 70 languages for new students whose first language is not English. See the website for a quick overview. There are other communication apps, but this is the one with which we have had good luck. Feel free to suggest others to us. We have found the easiest way to get students’ email addresses and phone numbers for texting purposes is to bring up the Remind website and while the students are doing group work, over the first 2 or 3 class periods, have the students enter the information themselves. This saves time and ensures the information is correct. If you need to enter Gmail accounts for your Google Classroom, this works too. Of course, you will need to do a quick check of your rolls before you send your first test message.

Any students who don’t get the reminder you sent, need to check the information they entered. If all the students receive your test text, or whatever method of communication you use, great. If some don’t, you can use this first test communication as a lesson on technology, proving that accuracy is important. Of course everyone in the class you are teaching at the time did a wonderful job, but a few people in your “other classes” may need to correct their information. Those students will need to email you with the correct information. This is a great lead in to a class discussion on the importance of accuracy and reliability in the internet sources they choose.


We will include suggestions for collaborative projects or school-wide events in later blogs, but right now the focus is on establishing, or re-establishing, the systems that will make your job easier.

If you are new to your building, for your technology needs, develop a relationship with these important people:

Librarian: This person is the best source for technology and print resources in your building. If what you need is not in the library, the Librarian will know where it is. Set up a meeting to run your project ideas past your Librarians early so that they can provide you with the best resources for your students- many that may surprise you. Remember that Librarians work with every department in the building, so they will have cross-curricula ideas for you and time to do personalized professional development during your planning bell or after school. They also set up equipment for meetings and events, so if you are tasked with presenting a program in your building or elsewhere, let them know. They can make sure you are comfortable with the equipment you will be using and have the equipment ready for you. Always test the equipment ahead of time.

Instructional Technology Resource person: Every school system in the country has this person. You may be lucky enough to have one assigned to your building. Their job is to train teachers to integrate technology and software effectively. He or she is probably already working very closely with your Librarian. If you are not sure who this person is and where he or she is located, please contact your Librarian.

School Network Engineer: Every school has a Network Engineer responsible for their building. Again, many of you will be lucky enough to have one full time in your building. This is the person who will make sure the network is running. Among their many duties, they often troubleshoot problems with your access to the Wi-Fi. Introduce yourself and make sure you know the procedure to have equipment repaired. Be aware these people will be very busy at the beginning of the year, so remember the person who submits the request nicely and correctly, including a detailed description, will get quicker service. Please do not turn in a request simply stating, “It’s not working.” Librarians and other tech people are often working throughout the building and may talk to 15 more people before they get back to their offices. So email them (best) or hand them your request or put it on their desk.

Upcoming Events:

September 23-29: Banned Book Week: Great for Business Law and Social Studies classes.

October: National CyberSecurity Month, NSA Day Of Cyber

Future blogs will include specific lesson plan ideas for collaborations and technology.

See you at the end of September!

cross posted at

Deborah Marshall is the Department Chair of Career & Technical Education and Lisa McKnight Ward is the librarian at Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia. Both are Nationally Board Certified, former Teachers of the Year, who have taught multiple subjects including AP and IB courses. They have over a decade of experience collaborating on technology-based learning. Read more at