Monday, 22 September 2014

"How are they doing?" Famous words said by every parent, ever thought why?

Famous words of every parent during meet the teacher night and words that many of us teachers cringe at.  For me I always felt that the students should be able to articulate this point of view to the parents, and to some degree I still do; however, I was picking up my daughter for the first time from school the other day and had to use every muscle in my body to stop myself from saying, "How is Izzy doing?"

This got me thinking: Even though, I knew my philosophy on this and yet I still wanted to ask those dreaded words. Why? Because I truly wanted to know how she was doing?  

Its been an interesting phenomenon having my daughter enter the world of school. I mean I know how she reacts at home, I know how she learns and yet when she is off in a different time and space then I wonder how she truly is doing? 

Million questions run through my mind: How is she behaving? What is she learning? How can I help at home to make it smoother? etc. Its a lot of stress and anxiety to have. As a parent all you want is the best for your child and I know that teachers will always give their best for my daughter but I also know its a very difficult job. I also know my daughter and I really just want to help. 

And lately this has gotten me thinking about my own students and their parents. What do they feel like when they drop their children off at school? Are they wondering about the same types of things (most likely yes). 

Now I know that we as teachers will often have interviews for students of concern or with parents we need to talk to, or we often see parents outside on the playground and say hey they had a great day but I know from experience that this doesn't really alleviate the stress of wondering what your child is actually going through every day.

With this in mind it has gotten me thinking about how can I alleviate this anxiety? So here is my plan:

1) continue using twitter and storify in the classroom.  In know that in previous post I have talked about this but these are amazing tools to have the parents see into the classroom. However, they don't necessarily give a picture of a particular child's strengths and next steps; just what they did and lately questions that can help with home.

2) So here is my insane idea, monthly summaries for each student.  Now I know many of you are thinking that this means more work for you as a teacher but I don't want to write them just give time for them to be completed. 

My biggest concern as a parent is what is she working on, and how can I help at school. Having these monthly reports would be, at least in my opinion, a great way of communicating this. This also will coincide with our schools philosophy of goal setting and making those goals public.  Now I am also about not making more work then what is needed. I have a new born and my own daughter that I want to spend time with. I mean as we speak I am writing this blog as my daughter is having a bath. So how can we make this work?

Conferencing has been always been an important part of my teaching but even more so now.  My goal is always to meet with the students four times a month.  During these meetings we discuss: reading goals, reading levels, math strategies, next steps, and classroom questions.  My thinking is that we turn these conferences back on the students and once a month we write down what we worked on this month, what our reading level is, where we would like to be and what our next steps are.  I was also thinking of adding in a parent connection where I can or students write what they would like to see at home.

3) I want to send home weekly good news. I hear this all the time in other amazing classes and I keep saying that I am going to do this but I really will now. Every week I want to send home five good news tickets, telling parents what amazing things that their child has done. Doesn't have to be academic just something that they can be proud of.  Now this may be a little more work but I think it would be worth it to build that community and trust.

4) Quarterly classroom visits: Now this is something that we already do.  Twice a term I want to invite the parents into the classroom during the day so their child can talk to them about what they are learning. This will primarily be on #geniushour but it can also be on any other topic.
I have learned more and more how important this connection is between the teacher and parent.  As my daughter starts her career in school, I and my wife just want to be a part of it.  She is our child and all we want is success.  Creating this team dynamic will only help her's and our student's success. 

Now this is a work in progress I am not too sure if it is logistically sound but I think it will work.  What do you think? Have you experienced this personally? What do you do in the classroom to communicate with all of the parents not just the ones that struggle?