4 Ways We Can Connect With Parents


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Recently I was asked about the idea of using specialized software to connect with parents so that they can login, see all of their child’s grades, marks, assignments, homework, and a ton of other information. Although I believe that these systems are designed to help make our systems transparent and ensure that we connect with kids, are they really effective for learning and improving our relationships with parents? If they are frustrated with the software, logins, etc., will this actually improve what is happening in our schools or do they actually perpetuate the “factory model” of school; go in, get information, and get out. I think that with the ease of many technology that educators, students, and parents use, there are other ways that we can bring parents into our classrooms and schools.

Here are a few thoughts:

  1. Consider parents partners in learning. Any information that you think can deepen the conversations at home about the learning that is happening in the classroom will only help improve the learning of the child. The web levels the playing field that we all have access to the same information. Take advantage. Share articles that you are reading, blog about professional development that you have attended, and ask them for feedback. Don’t use “Web 2.0″ technologies in “1.0″ ways. Share what is happening in your classroom and give parents the opportunity to share their expertise and knowledge in easy and meaningful ways.
  2. Go to where parents are. Try using things such as Facebook and Twitter as opposed to making grandiose systems that are complicated and hard to use. Many parents now understand how to use those sites so be where they are at. I am all for Twitter and think it is a great communication tool, but is it where parents are communicating this time? Find out what sites they are on, and try to create a presence to connect with them. If parents are uncomfortable, follow what Patrick Larkin does and have workshops on how they can connect, while also helping them build an awareness of digital identity. Why would we spend a ton of money on big systems when parents are also using social media sites that FREE! (Here is a great example of a school using YouTube to share what is happening in their classroom!) Use both of those things to your advantage and bring them in to the classroom.
  3. Share student work. Parents don’t go to a Christmas Concert to see the teacher; they go to see their child. If you give them opportunities to see different work from students, they are more likely to be interested in the places you are communicating then by simply posting homework assignments. Make opportunities for parents to look at the learning and creation that is happening in schools to make it more meaningful for them.
  4. Talk. The thing that scares me about these “automated” systems is that it actually lends to less opportunities for conversation about the children that we are serving. I think that phone calls, emails (only send emails that contain positive messages; save the tough conversations for either face-to-face or phone calls), and other ways of talking are important to helping not only an understanding of where the child is at, but also to help build a relationship of support and respect between the parent and teacher. With all of the technology that we have in the world, we still have to consistently take advantage and make time for face-to-face conversations. New and quick isn’t always better. Make time to have conversations. Technology can help make some great connections, but don’t go away from the old method of actually talking.

I have said many times over that the most important factor in the success of a child in school is if the parent is reinforcing the learning that is happening in the classroom. Not simply by hanging out in the school, but by reinforcing and discussing the learning. For example, the standard question for a child when they get home from school is, “what did you learn today?”, with the standard answer being “nothing”. Help change that conversation by sharing the learning that is happening in the classroom. The conversation could then become, “I saw that you were learning about _______ , tell me what your thinking is on that subject?” Totally different question which will probably lead to a more powerful and meaningful answer.

Help change those conversations at home by figuring out how to meaningfully connect with parents.

Although many educators have commented on this blog, I hope that there could be some parents who share their thoughts on how they connect and figure out what their child is learning and how they are doing in the classroom. What works for you? What do you prefer? Are there any “systems” that you find work best for you? I would love your thoughts.