Sunday, January 3, 2016
Despite working in education for 8 years, I identify as a parent, first and foremost. I didn't have children when I began teaching and didn't understand anything about a parent's anxiety about sending their child off to school with a virtual stranger. Now that I am a parent of at least one school-aged child, my mind has been opened to all the ways a teacher can make parents feel that their child is in good hands.
Here are 10 ways to make parents feel that they are involved in your classroom and that you truly care about their child! If you haven't done these all year long, no big deal! This is a new year!
** I have listed them in order of most important to least important (in my opinion, of course)! :)
#10: Set up a private social media account for your class
This is a great way to allow your parents to connect with other parents, share pictures or birthday party invites, and remind each other about things that you might forget about!
* Facebook: This will allow parents to interact with each other and share pictures with other parents, specifically those who aren't able to participate in activities that take place during the school day.
* Instagram: This is super quick and easy! Post pictures of what you and the kids are doing in real time to give parents a glimpse inside your classroom!
It also gives you a great excuse for being on your phone when your principal walks into the room! :)
#9: Help our kids stay organized
Easier said than done, I know. But, there are simple ways to help kids to get their work and materials from point A to point B without getting lost.
Some ideas include:
1. Use a specific colored folder for certain content areas
2. Put guided reading books, library books, or even graded homework in gallon-sized baggies to take to and from home.
3. Label certain parts of the folder for homework, graded work, etc.
4. Set time aside each week to clean out folders, desks, or lockers.
5. Use checklists! For example, at the end of the day, use a checklist to help kids remember all the things they need to take home.
* Routine is super important! If you have a great classroom routine, your kids are more likely to know that they need each day!
#8: Send a weekly newsletter
This is so easy. Set up a one-page template. There are tons of free ones out there! Just Google "Teacher Newsletter Templates" and download one. Each week, give a brief update about what you did during the week, what you have been working on, and what parents could be working on at home. Include any upcoming important dates, and you're done!
#7: Explain the data
When you tell a parent that their child is reading on a Level J, they likely have no idea what you are talking about (and they probably won't ask you either). As teachers, we have our students work on so many different software programs that produce information that makes no sense to the average parent. Don't just send these home and hope your parents won't ask! Discuss results at your next parent/teacher meeting, or simply send out an email if you don't have time to meet with everyone individually.
#6: Tell us about our child...
And I'm not talking about the check boxes on the report card that tell us that our child talks too much. Tell us a funny story or something unique that you like about our child. We want to know that you have invested your time in getting to know our child and that you aren't just there for the (meager) paycheck!
#5: ...but be honest, even if it's bad!
Don't be afraid to share things that may not be rainbows and butterflies. Parents don't need to be bombarded with every tidbit of information, and you don't need to spend all your time calling and emailing parents either. However, things that may need to be discussed (or disciplined) at home should be shared. If my child had an unusually bad day and cried in class, or if she bullied someone on the playground, I would like to know so I can handle it at home. It will help you out in the long run!
#4: Send reminders!
Either through Remind 101, emails, or some other platform, remind your parents about important dates, assignments, and classroom activities! We want to be informed of what is going on in the classroom! And sorry, but our kids don't remind us of anything. We're lucky if they tell us what they ate for lunch, so don't expect them to share the information with us when they get home. :)
#3: Take pictures!
My daughter's kindergarten teacher took pictures of every single event they had in their classroom and put them into a quick little video each week. I will never be able to thank that woman enough for capturing moments in my child's life that I was not able to be involved in. But it's not just for elementary kiddos. Middle and high schoolers do some pretty cool stuff at school. There are tons of ways to make collages that take just minutes to do. You can use things like Smilebox slideshows to create memories for your kids and their parents!
#2 Limit homework.
... or give homework well in advance. Here are just a couple of reasons:
A. Kids have after school activities, like sports or music/art classes, that are just as important as school.
B. Some parents actually like to spend quality time with their family.
C. No parent wants to get off work just to argue with their child about the proper way to multiply two-digit numbers.
D. Believe it or not, some parents actually can't help their children with homework. Either their jobs don't allow it, there is a language barrier, or they simply don't know how to do the work. So, if you do send home work, make sure it is at the student's level so that they don't have to seek out help from their parents.
One idea is to give weekly or monthly homework so that parents can plan homework time around other activities and have ample time to ask you if there is something they don't understand.
#1 Write something nice in their folders or on their work!
My daughter has had this "behavior" folder all year, for 5 months now. If there is something written in the box for that day, it means she got her clip moved for bad behavior. If there is nothing in the folder, well... I'm guessing that she did okay. I'm honestly not really sure. She has not once brought home a folder with anything written in it. Nothing positive or negative. It's just a bunch of empty boxes. PLEASE, I beg you, take the time to write positive notes on classwork, sticky notes, behavior folders, whatever! It takes 10 seconds, and your kids and parents will love you for it! You don't have to do it with every child every day. Pick three kids a day to write notes to, and pick three the next day, and so forth so on. Keep track of it by using the chart below to make sure you don't miss a child.