It was mid-August, I was feeling warm and hazy, I’d been hunched over my laptop creating rubrics and outlining my curriculum. I figured I’d take a little break and work on our Open House Night, when families and guardians come to our high school to follow their student’s schedules for an hour.
I pulled up the slides from last year and remembered how those ten minutes with each class of adults flew by as I tried to explain how Standards-Based Grading worked, or why I am using the Next Generation Science Standards, and this whole not giving zeros thing. Which, don’t get me wrong, is very important. But what I really wanted out of Open House was that in-person connection with the adults that are raising these students, my allies in education and role-modeling.
I decided to go old-fashioned. Kind of.
I pulled up Google Docs and started writing a letter. A letter home to the fervent supporters of my almost-adult students. I’m not sure about you, but in the early 2000s I can’t remember my parents getting a letter home from anyone but my band director. And I had a multitude of amazing, committed, thoughtful teachers in high school.
I won’t go into detail about my letter, you can see it here. I basically flipped my Open House spiel, allowing the parents and guardians to read about my class at a time that worked for them, leaving our precious classroom time reserved for making connections and becoming a team in support of our students. All this is pretty predictable, it’s the information I got back from parents over the next two weeks that surprised me and thus made me a firm believer in the beginning of the year introduction.
Here’s a list of some of what I heard back:
- “My student has an IEP, here are things that teachers have done in the past to help them be successful…”
- “If that becomes a problem, let us know, we’ll back you up at home.”
- “My preferred pronouns are…”
- “I’m hosting a Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning workshop, do you want to come?”
- “Do you need any help this year?”
- “Skyward shows my name as ________, but I’d prefer to be called ________ .”
- And a lot of, “Thanks!”
The influx of information and communication from our community was amazing. When I look out into that sea of 32 faces five times on August 31st I’ll have that much more information about them, because I did it BEFORE classes began.
Communicating home in August meant that I had time to sit down and respond thoughtfully, engaging in some long conversations about Project-Based Learning and how I focus on creating a growth-mindset. It was refreshing, it was encouraging.
If you already do write home, share your letters and thoughts below. If you haven’t sent one in the past, consider writing something right now and let us know how it goes.
Here’s to starting the year off right, go get ’em fellow educators!
(Note: I did also send a little missive to students at the same time I sent the parent letter.)
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