Sunday, October 4, 2020

Parents and Google Classroom You Can Do

Many times, as teachers, we focus on our content, schedules, the students in front of us, and all the ups and downs of teaching. How often do you stop and remember to include parents in that list? There was a part of my career where I didn't. That wasn't a stellar decision. Parents are part of education and we cannot ignore this fact.

I'm a mom, too. I have 3 daughters. As my oldest entered each new grade, it seemed that teachers communicated less - both in content and frequency. I struggled with this. She didn't come home and tell me all about her day. School happened at school; home was home. I didn't know how to help ... and she needed help. It was exhausting trying to chase down what was for homework and when tests and quizzes were and what to study. Because of this, I decided it was far easier for ME to communicate to all of my students (& their parents) than having them feeling this same frustration. It took me less than 5 minutes - after all, I was the one assigning the work! I wanted their time to be spent DOING rather than figuring out what to do. I also wanted to empower the parents to be able to have conversations with their student.

When I realized this and actively worked to include parents more in the happenings of my class, I loved the results. For one, I received far more "thank you" emails than "I didn't know" emails. Conferences were less stressful - communication was already a constant and parents weren't surprised. I also realized that my students - 7th & 8th graders - truly needed this extra support. It's not that they weren't being held responsible, it was that I was giving the parents the tools TO hold the student responsible at home because the parent knew what was expected.

Now, more than ever, communication between home and school is important. I see that from both sides - professionally and personally. I see teachers everywhere working to create the best out of whatever situation they are in. And this is hard. Teaching is hard. But we CAN do it.

Because of this, I've been focusing recently on sharing out small chunks about Google Classroom. Today, I want to focus on this audience in connection with Google Classroom: parents. Whether you are in a remote situation, a hybrid situation, or even face-to-face, parents are there with their students. We have to keep this in mind and keep them as part of our planning and thinking with Classroom.

Google Classroom can be a very effective way to build a partnership with parents. The best way is through Guardian Emails. This is an easy, built in way to give parents the information needed to support their student. This is helpful in face-to-face situations where sometimes homework can be a mystery but also during hybrid and remote times, when digital communication is the best we have. Classroom is also great for situations that change over time. It can be a consistent platform for parents to rely on information about their students' schoolwork.

Now, the first step is to understand parents do NOT have an intuitive idea or concept about Google Classroom. In many ways, we have to TEACH the parents about Classroom. I suggest keeping it simple. If you decide to use Guardian emails, I created a letter you are welcome to take, customize to fit your parents, and share. You can find it here: Guardian Email Parent Letter (click the "Use Template" button in the top right corner to make your own copy).

The second step is to decide how you want to use Google Classroom to communicate with parents. THIS WILL NOT TAKE THE PLACE OF YOU USING CLASSROOM FOR ACTIVITIES WITH YOUR STUDENTS. This decision allows parents a view into your digital Classroom. 

I see two possible methods for using Classroom with/for parents. One - to simply communicate homework. And two - to allow parents complete insight to the digital activities and homework for their student. Neither is right or wrong, better or worse. In the Slide deck below, I share pros/cons of each method along with some tips.

Regardless of how you decide to use Google Classroom with your parents, please let me stress a few things. This is actually a repeat of my "Final tips" Slide in the above resource:
  • Use Classroom DAILY to share - it’s the ONLY way parents will receive an email.
  • Use the scheduling feature so that the information for THAT DAY shows up - do not assume parents will remember on Thursday to go back and read what was posted on Monday.
  • Do NOT use abbreviations - it only takes a second to write it out. It can make the difference for parents. (We are stressed and we know they are too. Give them a little help here.)
  • Remember - parents canNOT click on links or expand anything out. Honestly, they don't need to. (If it’s work to be done, the student will be logging in to complete it.)
  • Add multiple guardians, BUT be sure any email you include is a person who is allowed to have access to information about this student.
  • Ask a trusted parent in your class to forward you a Guardian email. Teachers don’t automatically receive a copy. It can be helpful to see what the guardians see.
  • Keep it simple. This will help you and the parents.

I promise, including and intentionally thinking about parents and your Google Classroom is a step you will be thrilled you took.

As always, I'd love to hear from you! Comment below - email me: - or tweet at me @kiefersj.

And don't forget ... I'm a avid Wakelet curator. Be sure to check out my All Things Google collections. I have one specific to Google Classroom as well.

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