When I went to teacher school, I learned about the 3:1 rule– make 3 positive notes and calls home before making a complaint about a child. Although I knew I was supposed to do this, I HATE calling home– in fact, I hate calling anyone. (I think it’s a #millennial thing). I took to writing positive notes home that, half the time, didn’t make it there. Then I started doing personalized cards in the mail the first week of school, and although I love this practice in theory, #AintNobodyGotTimeForThat anymore. Instead, I have a few technologically savvy strategies to help you reach your (Parent) Squad Goals. Because we NEED PARENTS. Not to correct our math timings or to cut and laminate name tags, but to BE ENGAGED. To PAY ATTENTION. To WONDER WHAT IS HAPPENING IN SCHOOL. Last month, I shared 4 Fun Ways to Engage ELL Families, and this is similar! So grab that notepad and get ready to scribble down a few more engagement strategies.
“Engagement” through technology does not (only) refer to downloading a bunch of apps on your school tablets that the kids are pumped about. It doesn’t mean rapping about your latest math formula or even doing science experiments with explosions. Engagement includes relationships, and I may go as far as to say that it means relationships with not only your students, but with their families. In my classroom, I am not the sole conference leader.
- ClassDojo. You better be using it. I’ve mentioned it in my previous post, and I’ll do it again: I AM ITS BIGGEST SUPPORTER. It’s a behavior management tool accessible through Smart Phone, tablet, and computer. It’s got Class & Student Stories (like Snap Chat), and a wall (like facebook or instagram) where you can post messages to parents. Of course, it also has an instant messaging tool which makes parent communication a sinch. Got a high ELL population? Don’t sweat it– Class Dojo can be set to different languages too. My parents are usually floored when I tell them such an app exists. They can check in on their child’s behavior every day on their lunch break and when their kiddos get home, they know exactly what’s been happening in class. If they want to have a conversation about it, we can message each other using the app. Now THAT’S making the most of technology. ClassDojo offers a great video that I think captures every reason why I use it here.
2. Personal photo message. I refer to this back in How to Have the Best Classroom Ever. A picture says a thousand words…that’s why I take a million! I’ve found that you can win parents over VERY easily once you convince them you feel the same way about their child as they do. Sharing pictures with them is such a great way to build a relationship bridge with parents WITHOUT WORDS. ClassDojo is the best tool to share photos, but I’ll be honest: sometimes I just send personal texts to parent phones with photos of their kids, showing them what we’re up to in class. You have to use your best judgement here, obviously, and some districts have a strict no personal number policy. But consider this: there’s a different connotation to sending a message to a personal phone than through an app. Texts on your personal cell come from friends, from people you know well. The more of a “friend” I can be to parents, the more ally I become, rather than the teacher who doesn’t know their child.
3. Consider social media to find common ground. Although many districts recommend not adding parents and families of your classroom to your personal social media accounts, there are so many positive things that can come from setting up classroom social media for parents to partake in. On my classroom Instagram, for example, I post things important from my own life as well as professional life about once a week. The focus of this Instagram is on the classroom, but I consciously sprinkle in bits about my own life so that parents get a peek of who I am as a human, not just a teacher. Consider how celebrities post about their lives outside of their professions. Fans feel like they have a connection with them because not only can they see what’s happening for their favorite celeb, they can also find similarities in life experiences. This is a great technique to use on parents, especially in order to demonstrate what you’re like around the community where you teach. I posted pictures of my dog for a while and a parent who noticed asked me if I wanted to ever meet up at the local dog park with them. What a wonderful opportunity I had to get to know this family better and interact outside of school! Parents often show their children what I’m up to on my Instagram as well, and when they return from their weekends away, it serves as a conversation starter, as though they are all part of my life even outside the classroom.
There you have it– 10 strategies over 3 blog posts this year to build up that relationship piece in the classroom. Before academics can even start to be taught, relationships with both students and parents must be in place. We used to have the daunting task of taking a group of kids and turning them into a family overnight. Parents need to be a part of that family now, too. Don’t be afraid, teachers! Build that classroom squad up over the year and make those (Parent) Squad Goals a reality!
My dog also has an Instagram, and it's better than anyone's. @mrdarcy_theiggy