Middle school students are different than elementary and high school students. They want to be independent and still have the safety of knowing the adults in their life will catch them when they fall. Parents are trying to learn how to balance this new desire for freedom and still keep them protected.
When I started teaching, parents were different. The world was different. Over time, parents and the world have begun treating their children different. Students came from elementary school where communication was constantly ongoing with daily reports of their child’s behavior and academics to a middle school where parents are trying to navigate the new freedom with multiple teachers. Middle school teachers don’t have the time to communicate the way elementary teachers do. Parents want to let their kids learn their freedom and learn to self-advocate but also desire some type of information from the teacher on an ongoing basis. Class Dojo can be used to help parents navigate the new world of middle school. Here are some ways to utilize it in the middle school classroom:
~Pictures! You can post pictures like a Facebook feed but with much more privacy as the teacher controls who joins the class. Teachers can post individual student pictures directly to the parent through the child’s feed or to the whole class feed. I have used this function to post pictures of a class field trip and engaging lessons in the classroom. The parents have enjoyed seeing their child and what their child’s day was like in the pictures. We live in a visual society today and parents being able to see what is occurring helps them have something to talk about with their child that evening. It helps to make the parents feel more connected to the classroom. And this only takes seconds!
~Daily record of behavior. Class Dojo works on a point system that is created by the teacher. Students in my room receive positive points for turning in their homework, turning in their classwork, participating, helping others, as well as receiving certain citizenship points in our citizenship program. A student has the clipboard and checks off who has done the homework each day. When students finish the classwork they check back in with that student (after checking with me) to get checked off for the classwork assignment. The data collection is completely student ran. Any of the data collected does not go into the gradebook. When I am ready to collect the week’s homework or the day’s classwork, they still have to turn it in to me so I can review it and put in the gradebook. You can also set it up to have negative points for the students that misbehave or don’t complete their work. The points take about 5-7 minutes each class to enter if done through the app on the smartphone. The app is easier to enter the points than the website.
~True two-way communication for today’s world. Parents can send me an instant message letting me know why their child will be absent. They can also check in to see how their child is doing through the day. I had a student who had a rough morning at home and the parent wanted to know if the home situation impacted the child’s school day. I was able to immediately reply that it didn’t and put the parent at ease. The parents are also able to ask simply easy questions. I have even had parents send me a quick message requesting a conference that I then emailed the counselor to contact the parents to set this up. The program is an app and so all communication is done through the app without the parents or teachers having each other’s cell phone numbers. Parents and teachers can communicate through the messaging feature which is just like texting with ease. Saves the parents and teachers time of having to draft an email or calling. Some teachers may worry about parents sending messages at all hours. My experience says no. Parents respect the boundary of work is work and home is home. I have told my parents that I will not respond to messages past a certain time at night. I have only had one parent contact me after school hours and it was just to let me know why the student would be absent the next day. Teachers can also choose whether to open the app and respond or respond at a letter time. I have also used the posting feature to upload flyers that get passed out at school. I have also posted when I would be out so the parents are aware their child had a sub.
When I first looked at Class Dojo many years ago, I thought it was way more geared toward elementary. However, I have found this year, it can be tailored for whatever grade you teach. I was also afraid in the beginning of the time I would need to make it successful. With the students taking ownership of the data collection, it has barely taken any time. It has helped prevent numerous emails from parents trying to figure out what is going on in the class. It connected them to my classroom and gave them something to talk about in the evening. It has saved me time in the way of preventing frustrating emails from parents about the classroom and their child.
I enjoy hiking in the summer and traveling around the state with my 3 children and husband.