Ultimate Guides Text Messaging Guide For Teachers, Educators and Coaches
Text Messaging Guide For Teachers, Educators and Coaches
Jan 28, 2021 - 18 min. read
Everything you need to know about texting students, parents and faculty. Learn how to take advantage of teacher texting apps.

Everything You Need to Know About Texting Students, Parents and Faculty

Schools and communities revolve around the classroom and organized sports activities. As a teacher, educator, administrator, or coach you do a lot of communicating with parents, faculty, staff, and students.

You’ve got to get the word out regarding upcoming events, class cancellations, weather updates, important reminders, fundraising events, grade reports, and even emergency alerts.

It takes a lot of time to coordinate and communicate.

One of the biggest hurdles to communication is choosing the right tool for the job.

Drafting emails can take hours. Printing handouts can be wasteful. And you likely don’t have the time to call every student or parent on your contact list.

The good news is, text messaging can help.

To get you started, we’ve built this three-part guide. It’s all about text messaging for teachers, educators, and coaches. We walk you through why text messaging works at all levels for pre-K, K-12, and higher ed. We also show you how to start texting parents and students and what you need to do before you send your first message.

Here’s What You’ll Learn in This Guide:

I. Why text messaging?

  1. Why texting works for teachers, educators, and coaches
  2. Texting vs calling
  3. Texting vs email
  4. 8 Ways teachers, educators, and coaches can use text messaging

II. How to start texting parents, students, and faculty

  1. General text message etiquette and best practices
  2. Send 1-on-1 private text messages
  3. Send group text messages
  4. Schedule messages and send reminders
  5. Save and print text message conversations
  6. Share links, documents, and images
  7. Get feedback from surveys and classroom polls

III. What you need to do before you start texting

  1. Choose the right texting app
  2. Manage student and parent opt-in and opt-out
  3. Text from a 10-digit local phone number
  4. Set up call forwarding
  5. Add multiple faculty members, teachers or assistant coaches
  6. Upload, segment and group student, parent and faculty contact info

IV. Final thoughts and next steps

Chapter 1

I. Why Text Messaging?

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I. Why Text Messaging?

Email and voice calls will always have a place when it comes to school communication. Emails are the standard of communication, especially between parents and faculty. They’re accessible, secure, and convenient. Voice calls are immediate and helpful when you have an urgent update to communicate.

So why should you start texting students, parents, and faculty?

It’s an easy and effective way to keep everyone up-to-date. Whether you work at a daycare, public school, community college or large university text messaging can help. It fills the communication gaps between email and voice.

Texting gives you the best of both worlds with more immediate, more efficient, more convenient messaging. It also typically nets higher open and response rates.

As you know, students prefer texting. Most can’t even put away their phones during class. 3 out of 5 Millennials will reply with a text after choosing not to answer a phone call.

Parents also find text messaging convenient and useful. 67% would rather text than talk. This is especially true for reminders, inclement weather updates, grade reports, and announcements.

Some classrooms and educational organizations already recognize this shift in communication preference too. Teachers, students, and parents are starting to text each other.

1. Why Texting Works for Teachers, Educators, and Coaches:

  • 77% of Americans already own a smartphone (students and parents included).
  • Texting is the most widely adopted communication channel next to email.
  • 98% of text messages get opened and read within 3 minutes.
  • Texts are 7x more likely to get a response than talking on the phone.
  • Texting is the quickest way to get information out to large groups of people.
  • Texting allows you to send out class-specific updates and links
  • Texting helps athletes stay on top of league sign-ups, fundraiser events, practices, and more.

2. Texting vs Calling

Voice calls have long been the standard for communicating. But parents and students typically don’t pick up the phone (unless it's an emergency).

And let’s be honest; you don’t have the time to call every student or parent on your classroom roster.

In most cases, parents, students, and faculty would rather receive quick text updates.

Suggested Article: Texting vs Calling vs Email | Pros and Cons

3. Texting vs Email

Email is the most widely adopted form of communication. Nearly everyone has an email address and email is relatively secure.

However, emails don’t typically get high engagement or response rates. We’re talking around a 20% open rate and about a 6% response rate. If it’s not marked urgent or important, then expect either a delayed response or no response.

Text messages typically perform better. They get a 98% open rate and a 45% response rate.

Having such a high response rate means that texting works better for things like event reminders, due dates, etc.

Here’s an example: If you sent an email to a group of 200 parents, students or faculty members you’d get maybe 12 responses (6% response rate). If you sent a text you’d potentially get 90 responses (45% response rate).

4. 8 Ways Teachers, Educators, and Coaches Can Use Text Messaging

How do you currently stay connected with students, parents, faculty, and coaching staff? What kind of messaging tools do you use? Maybe a consumer messaging app like Facebook Messenger, GroupMe, WeChat, WhatsApp Line, or even Slack?

Regardless of how you connect with students, parents, and faculty, the above solutions have limitations. You’ll need a text messaging platform to help you do the following:

  • Schedule messages
  • Share documents, images, and media
  • Save messages as templates
  • Send more personalized messages
  • Improve communication frequency
  • Add multiple users to a conversation
  • Send reminders
  • Get more feedback

Here are 8 ways you can use a text messaging platform to communicate with students, parents, faculty, and staff:

1. Class Cancellations or Altered Schedules
You can easily send class-specific or school-wide updates with a teacher texting app like MessageDesk. Texts make it easy to keep parents and students updated on class cancelations, or even text out virtual class links.

2. Emergency Alerts
Alerting students and parents in emergencies as fast as possible improves safety and security. Texting allows you to send out emergency alerts to many contacts with just the touch of a button.

3. Spread Awareness About Special School Events
If your school or athletic program is hosting an event, you can easily spread awareness. Text messaging campaigns can be a great way to drive better event attendance too. You can get the word out and can keep an event top of mind for students, faculty, and parents.

4. Receive Inbound Questions From Parents
Don’t burn time on the phone or send tons of emails. Texting is a better way for your school, classroom or program to send and receive text messages from parents. A group text app like MessageDesk makes it easy to answer questions and quickly respond with a templated message.

5. Communicate With Faculty and Staff More Effectively
In-house communication is also essential for keeping everyone up-to-date and on track. Text out new policies and school updates to all faculty, staff members, or coaches to keep everyone informed.

6. Alert Parents to Report Card or Grade Notifications
Give parents a head up that report cards have been sent out or that grades are now available for review.

7. Stay on Track with Homework Assignments
Use text group messages to quickly get in touch with large groups of parents or students. Texts can help everyone stay on track with homework assignments and due dates too. Teachers can send assignments, links to handouts, google slides presentations, or additional learning materials.

8. Sports Team Communication
Text messaging is the best way to remind athletes and parents. Send text for upcoming events, practices, fundraisers, sign-up reminders, and anything else your sports team is putting together.

Chapter 2

II. How to Start Texting Students and Parents

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II. How to Start Texting Students and Parents

1. General Text Message Etiquette and Best Practices

There are some best practices to be aware of before you start texting students, parents, and faculty. “LOL”, “OMG” and emojis are fun and easy. But they’re not professional and most likely won’t leave anyone but your students laughing out loud.

Get the right kind of permission, and stop texting when asked

This is an essential aspect of text message etiquette. As an educator or coach, you need consent before you start texting. Most text messaging platforms will also give message recipients a way to opt-out of your messages by texting STOP.

We recommend that you include a statement in your classroom syllabus, coaching agreement or policies, and procedures. You want to let students, parents, and faculty know that you’d like to contact them via text message.

You’ll also want to include a consent mechanism that captures their signature. This gets them to acknowledge and agree to receive texts from you.

Be careful of sending and receiving confidential information

Sending and receiving confidential information is a liability. This is especially true when it comes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). You’ll always want to protect confidential student information.

Keep in mind that text messages aren’t considered a secure or encrypted messaging technology. This is because all text messages get stored at some level by a telecom provider.

This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t text students, parents and faculty. Just be sure to double-check the content of your message.

As a best practice, you’ll want to keep your messaging focused on things like updates and reminders.

Move complex conversations to a different communications platform

Conversations that require a lot of explaining don’t work over text. If a parent is soliciting you for guidance regarding their student consider moving the conversation to another platform.

Zoom meetings, phone calls, or emails are the better solution for handling these complex inquiries.

Keep your private number private

Most text messaging platforms like MessageDesk allow you to text using a number separate from your personal phone number. This is particularly useful for individual coaches, teachers, and instructors.

You want to remain accessible to students, parents, and faculty. But you won’t want to give out your personal phone number.

Write clear calls to action (CTAs)

CTAs are simple and direct calls to action. They typically start with a verb. Many look like this: “Check Grade Report”, “Sign Up Here”, Contact Office” or “Call Us”.

Clear CTAs give your message recipients a clear way to take action and do something.

Keep text messages short, simple and to the point

Text messages for notifications and updates work best when kept short and to the point. Text messaging isn’t a platform for lengthy messages. Most platforms have a 160 character limit per message.

Utilize text message templates

Drafting templated messages can save you time. No more having to type the same message over and over again. This is especially useful when sending a text to a lot of people.

Templates make it possible to type a message once, apply personalization tags like {{ FirstName }} and save the message to send later.

Send and schedule texts for delivery during normal school hours

Sending and scheduling texts at the right time makes text messaging incredibly effective. However, early morning, late night, or weekend texts may annoy you, your faculty, your students, and their parents.

However, this will all depend on your classroom and educational situation. Coaches for instance may need to do most of their texting on the weekends. Regardless, you want to know your students and parents and understand their messaging preferences.

Limit message frequency when possible

It goes without saying, but don’t spam students, parents, and faculty with non-relevant mass text blasts. Only send communications when it's important and relevant to your classroom, school, or team.

Use emojis sparingly

Use emojis to personalize your messages, soften your tone, humanize yourself, encourage engagement, and add humor. Just don’t overdo it. Be sure to “read the classroom” and understand your context.

Sign off properly

You don’t want people thinking they need to respond when a conversation is over. Just be clear when ending a conversation. You want to make sure that important questions get answered.

Suggested Article: 10 Step Guide | Text Message Etiquette

2. Send 1-on-1 Private Text Messages

MessageDesk makes it easy to send individualized communication for practice notifications, grade reviews, parent-teacher meeting reminders, and more.

It’s easy to register a separate, private, phone number and start texting.

Private messages in MessageDesk work just like normal text messaging on your phone. These are 1-on-1 conversations you can have with students, parents, faculty and coaching staff.

You can also configure MessageDesk and other texting platforms to support both shared and private inboxes.

How to use 1-on-1 private text messaging:

  • Answer specific parent questions.
  • Schedule parent-teacher conferences.
  • Communicate internally with faculty, staff, and coaches.
  • Send individual practice notifications and schedule updates.
  • Send homework updates or a virtual class link.

1-on-1 private text message templates:

Parent-teacher Conference:

Hi {{ FirstName }} here’s a link to my personal calendar. Feel free to scheduling me for your parent-teacher conference [insert link] - {{ UserName }}.

Missing Attendance

Hi {{ FirstName }} [student] missed 2 classes this week. Please contact [teacher] to discuss.

3. Send Group Text Messages

Group text messaging for teachers can help you reach a lot of students, parents and faculty, fast. Many text messaging platforms will also help you organize and segment your contact lists for group messaging. This helps you reach specific student, parent and faculty groups with just a few clicks.

However, group messaging on a teacher texting app is different from the group text messaging you do on your phone. Group text messaging on MessageDesk allows you to turn off “reply-all”.

Students and parents only see an individual message that comes from you and your class, school, or team. You may send the same message to a bunch of people in the group. However, each text message stays separate from the other. Each response comes back to you as a single, individual, private reply.

How to use group text messages:

  • Send updates to an entire team.
  • Share media or documents with an entire team.
  • Alert parents about report cards or grades being available.
  • Provide updates about inclement weather or school cancellations.
  • Share information and resources that parents can find online.

Suggested Article: How to Send a Group Text Without Reply All

Group text message templates:

Team Updates:

Hey {{ FirstName }}. Our practice schedule has changed. Please report to the field today at 3 pm. - {{ OrganizationName }}

Inclement Weather:

Attention all students. Due to inclement weather, we are canceling all in-person classes today. Enjoy the long weekend and stay safe!

Report Card & Grade Notifications:

Report cards will be available today at 3 pm for grades 6-8. Please review them with your student and sign the report card.

Emergency Alerts:

Attention: a code red is in progress. Please seek shelter immediately and await further instruction.

4. Schedule Messages and Send Reminders

Scheduling text messages and reminders is a time-saving power-move.

With a text messaging platform like MessageDesk, you can schedule event reminders, updates, notifications, and more. This allows you to message entire groups of students, parents, and faculty in bulk.

How to use text message scheduling:

  • Send event reminders to groups of contacts.
  • Send updates on school closures and reopenings.
  • Text links for appointment scheduling.
  • Copy and paste a link into a text message template.
  • Once you have your template and link you can send the template as a scheduled text message.

Suggested Article: How to Schedule a Text Message

Scheduling and reminder text message templates:

Appointment Scheduling:

Hi {{ FirstName }}, Are you available next week for a conference? Here’s my calendar link: [insert link here] — schedule whenever works best for you!

School Events:

Support our girls basketball team as they take on our rivals from across town. Game starts Friday at 5pm.

School Closure and Reopening:

Hi {{ FirstName }}, school will open again on the 25th of August. We hope you enjoyed your summer holiday and look forward to seeing you this school year!

5. Save and Print Text Message Conversations

Centralizing your school or athletic organization’s communication creates oversight and protects against liability.

Text messaging services like MessageDesk make tracking your text message correspondence easy.

Select a date range and save all text message correspondence with any parent, student, or faculty member as a PDF. You can also print the text message conversation and keep it as a paper record.

6. Share Links, Documents and Images

Document sharing between you, your students, their parents, and other faculty and coaches can save a lot of time.

Inevitably, you’ll request a document but get the wrong one in return. It’s then a hassle asking for the right document, getting a physical copy, and keeping the whole process going.

Many text messaging platforms also allow you to send and receive MMS or picture messages. This works the same as on your normal phone and saves time and trees.

You can use MessageDesk to store individual waiver agreements, permission slips, team schedules, and more.

Centralized document storage gives everyone at your school or in your organization access to important contact-specific documents.

Document sharing text message templates:

Document Request:

Hi {First Name}, I still need a few more documents from you. Please upload your documents via our secure file share [Insert Link].

7. Get Feedback from Surveys and Classroom Polls

Surveying, polling, and collection feedback are all essential activities for improving programs, gauging learning outcomes, and more. The best way to make a poll or survey meaningful is to get a large enough response rate.

Text messaging makes this possible. It's a direct and immediate way to message students, parents, and faculty and share links to survey software.

The best way to use text messaging for polling and surveys is to save a text message template. This works well in conjunction with a Survey Monkey or Google Forms link. You can create the actual poll questions separately and link to them using a link in a text message.

How to use texting for feedback, surveys, and classroom polls:

  • To get the best possible response, you need to make it easy to access and complete the poll or survey.
  • Don’t make your message recipients go out of their way to complete a survey or poll.
  • To make things as easy as possible, send contacts a link with clear directions.
  • Tell them exactly how to complete the poll or survey and submit feedback in the text message.

Suggested Article: Guide to SMS Text Message Surveys and Polls

Feedback, Survey, and Classroom Poll Text Message Templates:

Event Feedback or Survey:

Hi {{ FirstName }}. Thanks for attending our event! If you have some time, please feel free to leave us feedback. Here’s the link to the quick two-question survey: [Insert Link Here] Thanks!

Program Exit Survey:

Hi {{ FirstName }}. You did it! You’re on your way to graduating. As a soon-to-be graduate, let us know what you think of the program and how we can improve. Here’s a link to our survey: [Insert Link Here].

Classroom Poll:

Hey {{ First Name }}, complete this classroom poll by following this link: [Insert Link Here]

Learning Outcome Poll:

Hey {{ FirstName }} on a scale of 1-10 how confident do you feel that you’ve mastered the following subject?

Chapter 3

III. What You Need to Do Before You Start Texting

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III. What You Need to Do Before You Start Texting

1. Choose the Right Texting App

The best apps for texting students and parents will save you time, increase your messaging efficiency, and extend your messaging reach. A good text messaging app can also help you integrate with other software and services.

Is your current messaging solution easy for you to use? If you’re using some sort of communication app, does it save you time through automation? Does it integrate with any other services?

If the answer to any of these is no, then your current solution probably won’t work in the long run.

Look for these features in a text messaging app before you buy:

  1. Easy to use and get started with
  2. Accessible on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices
  3. Supports adding multiple users
  4. Uses a local 10-digit phone number
  5. Has call forwarding features
  6. Saves text messages as templates
  7. Has personalization tag features
  8. Creates groups and lists of contacts
  9. Sends texts to multiple recipients without reply all
  10. Schedules text messages for sending later at any time
  11. Manages opt-in, opt-out and consent
  12. Integrates with other apps
  13. Provides good service and support

Suggested Article: How to Choose the Best Texting App

2. Manage Student and Parent Opt-in and Opt-out

The FCC regulates texting and teachers, educators and coaches aren’t exempt. This is especially true when it comes to promotional and marketing messages.

The Telecommunications Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) outlines the FCC’s boundaries, restrictions, and policies regarding text messaging for promotional reasons.

All you need to know is that there are three different levels of consent (implied, expressed, and expressed written). Each applies to all forms of text messaging. The level of consent you have from your contacts determines the kinds of messages you can send to them.

Schools and educational organizations must have express written consent for promotional messages. This is the highest level of consent.

If you’re texting with current students or athletes and their parents, then you have an existing relationship with implied consent.

Just be sure that parents and students understand your text messaging policy. They need to consent to receive messages and know that you will not be in violation of FERPA.

Regardless of the relationship or consent level, your students and parents also need a way to opt-out of text messaging. Once they text STOP they won’t receive any more messages.

Text messaging services like MessageDesk manage and automate much of this process. They’ll even keep track of who opts-in and out of your text messaging.

Check out our Complete TCPA Compliance Checklist and Guide for more information.

Opt-in and Opt-out Checklist:

  • Conversational messages require implied consent.
  • Informational messages require express consent.
  • Promotional messages require express written consent.
  • Don’t contact students and parents who haven’t opted in.
  • Be conscious of FERPA violations.
  • Don’t text or call contacts before 8 am or after 9 pm, local time.
  • Let students and parents know who you are, how often they’ll receive messages, and that messaging rates may apply.
  • Provide contacts with an “opt-out” like “STOP”.

Disclaimer: Please note that our advice is for informational purposes only. It’s not meant to substitute for advice from qualified legal counsel.

3. Text from a 10-Digit Local Phone Number

Why does texting from a 10-digit number matter? Students and parents respond more frequently to texts from known numbers with local area codes.

When you text using a local phone number, you’re starting a familiar, 1-on-1, conversational experience.

Long codes also help give everyone a more personalized messaging experience. A message that comes from a standard, 10-digit number feels like it’s coming from a person, not a bot.

Some group text apps for coaches and teachers also allow you to text enable an existing phone number.

Suggested Article: How to Select Your 10-Digit Phone Number in MessageDesk

4. Set up Call Forwarding

Not all student information can be exchanged via text. Some parent-teacher communication requires a phone call. MessageDesk and other messaging platforms make it easy for parents to call your text messaging number.

When a parent calls your text-enabled 10-digit phone number, the call gets forwarded to a number of your choosing.

This works great when you prefer having a separate number just for texting students and parents.

Suggested Article: How to Set Up Call Forwarding in MessageDesk

5. Add Multiple Faculty Members, Teachers or Assistant Coaches

Having oversight of conversations across your faculty and coaching staff may be important to you depending on your messaging situation.

When it comes to sending out reminders and seeing responses, multiple parties may need to see text message exchanges. With MessageDesk, everyone can see and respond to text messages.

You can’t accomplish this next-level text messaging without a business-grade text messaging platform. You’ll need support for adding multiple users to a single 10-digit text messaging number.

Suggested Article: How to Add Multiple Users in MessageDesk

6. Upload, Segment and Group Your Contacts

MessageDesk and other group text apps for teachers help keep your student, parent, and faculty contact information ordered and actionable.

If you’re always on the go, then you’ll need access to your contact lists from any device.

Keep in mind that not all teacher texting apps offer the same experience from any device. Some don’t have support for mobile devices, only desktop computers.

With MessageDesk you can send texts from your computer, phone, and tablet. The experience is exactly the same on all devices.

Upload Your Contacts

Many SMS platforms have built-in, guided CSV import and export features. Each makes it easy to upload and update contact information in bulk.

Make sure you have a list of student, parent and faculty names and mobile phone numbers. You’ll want this info stored in a spreadsheet as a CSV file before you start texting.

Suggested Article: How to Upload Contacts into MessageDesk

Segment Your Contacts

It’s essential that you organize your contacts into lists.

You’ll also want to include additional attributes for contacts in your CSV file. Things like name, email, and personalized notes. Many SMS text messaging platforms also offer custom fields.

These allow you to store unique data and organize student and parent info in specific ways.

Suggested Article: How to Create and Edit Custom Fields in MessageDesk

Group Your Contacts

Once you have contact info uploaded, you’ll want to manually and automatically add those contacts to various groups.

You can do this with either simple static lists or more complex automatic groups. Most text messaging applications will allow you to create simple lists by manually adding contacts.

Other platforms like MessageDesk use smart groups. These automatically group contacts together based on their attributes. For schools, you can easily segment your list based on age or grades, classes, sports activities, teams, and more.

Suggested Article: How to Create Manage and Update Groups in MessageDesk