Saturday, December 16, 2017

Communication You Can Do

We've all heard it before.  Communication is important.  It's crucial.  Good communication can go a L O N G way in preventing problems ... especially in a classroom.  If you are a parent of school-age children, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Having my oldest start school truly changed my perspective on quite a few educational topics ... communication being one of them.

I have 3 school-aged daughters.  I send them off to school for 7 hours each day --- Monday through Friday --- August to May.  That's a L O N G time!  Can you imagine if as a parent I had NO idea what was going on?  Whew!

In my own classroom, it dawned on me ... my 7th & 8th graders "probably" weren't going home and filling in whomever was home with every little detail about school.  How could they?  We expect them to cram 7 hours worth of content in their heads, go on to whatever extracurriculars they participate in, eat, do homework, AND communicate it all to mom & dad?  Yea, right. For a decent number of years, I had parents email or call or say to me at conferences, "I didn't know (fill in assignment/test/project name) was coming up." 

I decided to do what I could to change this. 


Yes! You can! I started off small. We will call this "Concise Communication" - I posted the homework every week - in my classroom (where I encouraged students to write it down) AND in our grade book program. I had to turn in lesson plans anyhow which included my planned homework, so I knew it ahead of time.  If I needed to adjust, I did. I encouraged students and parents to look there for homework & grades.

"Clear & Concise": I realized I could email inside our grade book program.  So after I wrote out the HW, I copied & pasted it into an email.  Bam! Right to their inbox! [Now, this only works if the emails are up-to-date ... 🙄 ] Can we talk about how this lessened the number of emails/conversations with parents who "didn't know"???

"Clear, Concise, & Consistent": I built a website. Was it super pretty? No. Did it serve it's purpose?  Yep. I wrote dates of upcoming big assignments. (I kept HW up-to-date in the grade book.)  And then I sent the parents the website and encouraged them to look regularly. Now, I was not getting emails saying they didn't know ... I was getting emails thanking me for keeping them informed.  Oh the joy!!!

"Clear, Concise, & Consistent", Version 2.0: I started adding links & resources to my website. I really pushed my students to utilize the site and at the same time, included a link to my website with my homework posting. And I wrote a blurb on my website to check grades on the grade book site. [See how it becomes a loop of communication?]

Knock Your  Off! This is the ULTIMATE! I found out how to send bulk emails via Google Sheets.  I could send out an email to all, or groups of, my parents by typing ONE email.  Yes, the learning involved a bit, but once I knew how to do it, communication was SUPER quick and easy.  I used the add-on "formMule".  [Here's a YouTube video].

Wrapping up ... don't assume your students' parents know.  Don't assume your students go home and give a run-down of their day. (My own aren't always super great at communicating ... we work on it, but ... I depend on communication from school)

You don't have to do all of these.  Choose one. Start in January. And don't make excuses. I had a lot of people ask, "What if the parents don't have emails?"  I asked for parent/guardian emails at the beginning of each year ... out of 150 students I taught, I had 3 students whose parents didn't have email. I communicated via paper with these 3. 

I promise you will see positive results.  If you need or want help with any of these, just let me know.  I'd be happy to help.  Don't be intimidated. 

You CAN do this. 

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