Back to School night is this week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I think I’ve always given a hopefully engaging ten minute performance for parents, but that’s really what it is. Ten minutes of the teacher talking at parents, often quickly and densely enough to avoid questions. And it’s a broken system in a lot of ways--who is that good for? It’s certainly not the culture or style of classroom nor the message about learning I want to share.
So instead, I’m refocusing my efforts towards a conversation about relationships. Building relationships and shifting culture has definitely been a theme in my teaching and work so far this year, and it shouldn’t stop with students. I’m sure I have a full post in me about back to school night and family engagement, but these thoughts led me to important questions:
How can I use the technology we use in our classroom to better connect and communicate with families? How can the tech be leveraged for stronger relationships in the students’ out of school worlds, too?
Again, these big ideas deserve more space that I’m dedicating to them here. Don’t worry, I’ll explore them more soon.
Instead I want to share small, easy, and still powerful ways I’m using technology to move from focusing on reminders to building culture.
It’s great to use tools like Remind, Google Classroom, and Twitter to schedule reminders, assignments, and all kinds of class resources (see 4 Tools to Schedule Communication), but I think they can be leveraged for more powerful ways, too.
Break Down Classroom Walls
Share the learning going on inside our classroom walls with parents, families, and the world. Create a parent group on Remind, use a class web site, or share on Twitter by posting pictures, videos, and learning activities online to help break down the classroom walls. No matter the tool or technology, the more families can understand and connect to what goes on in our classrooms, the better the students’ learning will be.
This quote below from George Couros is a favorite. What if we encouraged students to share, too? How could that impact relationships, culture, and learning?
Open Lines of Communication
I want to be in touch with all of my parents and students all the time about their successes and challenges. The personal phone call home is essential, but e-mails, online portals, web sites, and reminders are all valuable tools to maintain consistent and effective communication.
With that, I really want to invite families into my classroom and their students learning, and to open the lines of communication. I’ll reach out as much as necessary or possible, but truthfully it can be tough with one teacher and so many students. So I want my students and teachers to send e-mails, post questions on Classroom, and send chats on Remind. Let’s use these tools to provide more opportunities for success.
After I plan a new lesson or assignment, I usually turn right to Google Classroom and Remind. On Google Classroom, I schedule the assignment to post in the appropriate class. Then, using Remind I schedule at least one reminders to help keep students on task. Sometimes I add my parent Remind classes, too.
But lately I’ve added another layer to this. In addition--and instead of--sending just reminders, I want to use this space to connect to my students by sharing positive or motivational messages. I started with a Kid President meme and a writing reminder, but now the ideas are spinning. I want to send memes, quotes, and other fun and positive messages from time to time. I do this a lot on Twitter but know that many students are more likely to see, read, and react when the message comes on a Remind text. This is an idea to explore more.
Back to Back to School
These are some of the things I hope to talk with families and parents about at back to school night this week. I’ll emphasize the talk with, as opposed to at. I want to share strategies for us to connect and communicate, resources to learn about our class, and all of the ways to help their students succeed. I also want to model the real learning and culture that takes place every day.
Let’s see how it goes. I’ll report back soon and share both my thoughts on this year’s event and my plans to improve in the future.
What’s your best back to school night advice or experience? Share in the comments or on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.
cross posted at www.aschoenbart.com
Adam Schoenbart is a high school English teacher, Google Education Trainer, and EdD candidate in Educational Leadership. He teaches grades 10-12 in a 1:1 Chromebook classroom at Ossining High School in Westchester County, NY and received the 2014 LHRIC Teacher Pioneer Award for innovative uses of technology that change teaching and learning. Read more at The SchoenBlog and connect on Twitter @MrSchoenbart.