“Renrakucho: Communicating With Your Child’s Teachers in Japan” is a detailed look at the renrakucho (連絡帳 | “communication notebook”), the primary means of communication between parents and daycare and kindergarten teachers in Japan.
I’ve touched on the renrakucho in my post, An Inside Look At Daycare in Japan. You might have also seen snippets of my daughter’s renrakucho on Twitter or on my Instagram stories.
By decoding the renrakucho, I hope to take away the mystery (and the pressure of writing in Japanese!) so that you and your child’s teacher will have a lasting and positive relationship.
UPDATE 2020.11.4: I’ve added a NEW section about smartphone renrakucho apps!
Renrakucho: Communicating With Your Child’s Teachers in Japan
How To Use the Renrakucho
You should write daily to your child’s teacher (担任の先生 | tannin no sensei) to let teachers know what to expect when their students arrive.
For example, if one of my students has a slightly higher temperature than normal, I’ll know to keep a closer look at them throughout the day.
In daycare and kindergarten, parents should fill out the following information:
- Date (日付 | hiduke)
- Weather (天気 | tenki)
- Temperament (機嫌 | kigen)
- Temperature (体温 | taion)
- Pick up time (お迎えの時間| omukae no jikan)
- Who’s coming to pick up your child (お迎えの方 | omukae no kata)
- Sleep schedule (睡眠 | suimin)
- Bowel movements (排便 | haiben)
- Meals (食事 | shokuji)
- Bath time (入浴 | nyuuyoku)
- How your child is doing at home ( 家庭での様子 | katei de no yousu)
- Special remarks (家庭からの連絡 | katei kara no renraku)
NOTE: The above fields vary by daycare/kindergarten. Sometimes you’ll have to fill in info; other times it’s just necessary to simply circle what’s appropriate.
Here’s some blank pages from my daughter’s daycare renrakucho:
At this time, she was just 21 months old at the moment, in the 0-1 year old class. The pages are extremely detailed as at that age, children can not communicate all their needs and wants with their teachers.
As your child grows, it’s very likely that the daycare/kindergarten will not need to know the bowel movements or sleep schedule of a 3 or 5 year old!
With that said, if your child is constipated, or did not sleep well the previous night, that’s something that you might want to tell the teacher.
Some messages from teachers might include:
- School timetable (時間割 | jikan wari)
- What to bring to school (持ち物 | mochi mono)
- Info on school events (行事 | gyouji)
- Homework (宿題 | shukudai)
NOTE: In elementary school, teachers write on the blackboard and students copy the day’s message in their renrakucho. This is to help children improve their penmanship and mastery of hiragana and kanji. (In the first half of first grade, the teacher prints out messages.)
The renrakucho is also very important in the summertime when the school pool opens. Your child’s renrakucho may include dedicated pages to pool days or your child may have a separate card/sheet to use.
Today was #プール開き (pu-ru biraki), the first day of pool play!
Parents need to fill out these sheets everyday if they want their kids to enter the pool.
The 1st image is the pool card for my class; the 2nd is the pool card for my daughter’s daycare.#japan #lifeinjapan pic.twitter.com/J90byfEjg9
— Teni Wada (@WadaTeni) 2018年7月9日
What to Write in the Renrakucho: Useful Phrases
Now here comes the challenging part: filling out the pages. Most fields, like weather, or temperature, or meals, are pretty straight forward.
It’s these sections where you write about how your child is doing at home ( 家庭での様子 | katei de no yousu) and special remarks (家庭からの連絡 | katei kara no renraku) where parents get stuck.
Writing in Japanese can be daunting, even if you can speak the language. I have terrible handwriting, and my renrakucho pages are covered in traces of correction tape.
Truthfully, I outsource writing to my husband because I have my own share of notebooks to write in daily! But I try my best, and sometimes have no choice, especially when my husband is out for business trips.
At of the start of the school year or new term, it’s best to give your child’s teacher a short greeting (挨拶 | aisatsu):
- I’m looking forward to this year together (これから1年間、どうぞよろしくお願いいたします | kore kara ichi nen kan, douzo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu)
- Good morning (おはようございます | ohayou gozaimasu)
- Thank you for always taking care of my child (いつもXXXがお世話になっております | itsumo XXX ga osewa ni natte orimasu)
- Thank you for your daily comments (連絡帳のコメントいつもありがとうございます | renrakucho no komento itsumo arigatou gozaimasu)
家庭での様子 | katei de no yousu
When writing about how your child is doing at home ( 家庭での様子 | katei de no yousu) talk about your child’s health (健康面 | kenkoumen), physical condition (体調 | taichou) or achievements (達成したこと | tassei shita koto):
- Has a cough/runny nose (咳/鼻水が出ています | seki/hanamizu ga deteimasu)
- No appetite (食欲がありません| shokuyoku ga arimasen)
- Not like him/herself today (いつもより元気がないです | itsumo yori genki ga nai desu)
- Did XXX all by him/herself for the very first time (初めて1人でXXXができました | hajimete hitori de XXX ga dekimasita)
- Ate all of XXX that they don’t like (苦手なXXXも残さず食べました | Nigate na XXX mo nokosazu ni tabemashita)
- Tried XXX for the first time (初めてXXXに挑戦しました | hajimete xxx ni chousen shimashita)
Another thing you can mention in this area is fun stuff that you did during the weekend or holidays:
- We went to XXX. It was so much fun! (XXXに行きました。とても楽しかったです！ | XXX ni ikimashita. Totemo tanoshikatta desu)
This is a great way for teachers to get to know their students better. In turn, students can develop their listening and speaking skills. Even younger kids around my daughters age can answer yes/no questions
家庭からの連絡 | katei kara no renraku
For the special remarks (家庭からの連絡 | katei kara no renraku) section, this is where you want to add extra information such as:
- My child brought home someone else’s XXX (子供のではないXXXを持って帰ってきました | kodomo no de wa nai XXX wo motte kaette kimashita)
- My child lost his/her XXX (XXXを紛失してしまいました | XXX wo funshitsu shite shimaimashita)
- Tomorrow my child will be absent (明日はお休みます | ashita wa oyasumimasu
NOTE: Teachers really like to know when students will be absent! Nothing against your child, it just makes lesson planning/craft prep so much easier. You don’t need to explain why, but it’s nice to inform teachers in advance (if possible).
If you have absolutely nothing to say on a particular day, just write: 本日もよろしくお願いいたします | honjitsu mo yoroshiku onegai itashimasu. You can’t go wrong with this phrase!
Renrakucho: Communicating With Your Child’s Teachers in Japan With Smartphone Apps
If you still feel uneasy using the renrakucho, there’s hope! Daycares and kindergartens in Japan are embracing the technological advances of the 21st century by switching to (or using in tandem) smartphone apps!
These apps cut down on the use of paper as school calendars, notices, and so on are stored on the app.
The apps are generally free to parents to use while the school pays monthly management fees (which of course get passed on to parents somewhere in the tuition invoices!).
Registration is managed by each facility and you’ll receive a sheet of paper (I know, I know) with a QR code/URL and login info.
NOTE: I’m only familiar with the れんらくアプリ (renraku apuri) but I imagine most apps habe a similar interface.
Bonus: When Do Teachers Get Time To Write In the Renrakucho?
READ: A Day in the Life of a Working Mom in Tokyo
You might wonder when teachers have time to write, especially when they are so many kids in class! Honestly, I always wonder when I will have time to write.
Nearly all teachers will at least check the notebooks in the morning. This is to see who is leaving early, who has medication, who has messages for the teacher or for the principal, etc.
Once I filter out the notebooks, I respond to them during lunch time or during the kids’ nap time. My month lessons are already planned, and I prepare the next day’s lesson before leaving for home. That way, when I come to school the following day, I know exactly when I will have time to write in the notebook and what to write.