Today I met with some of our district's newest teachers to facilitate a conversation around communicating with parents. Everything about our roll as teachers has changed since I began my career in 1994. I can't think of any aspect of my job that has changed as much as the way I communicate with parents.
When I first began my career, parent communication was limited to handwritten notes received from parents, the occasional phone call, open house, and parent teacher conferences. It wasn't uncommon for me to have my first real exchange with a parent at the parent-teacher conference in November and then to have little communication for the remainder of the year. Honest to goodness, I remember shopping in a "teacher store" and coming across a parent communication notebook where teachers could write a note to parents and a carbon copy of the note would be left with the teacher. I thought I had struck it rich. I didn't have to go to the copier to make a copy of my handwritten response back to the parent.
Fast forward to 2018 and parent communication has been made 100% easier by the introduction of technology. Teachers communicate with email, social media, web pages, blogs, and digital portfolios. Trust me, the list goes on and on. The good news is that we're able to share the learning unfolding in our classrooms with much greater ease. The bad news is that if you're like me, you're trying to do it all. As a result, I'm spending TONS of time communicating with parents and I don't have a super sense for how helpful or effective my communication is. I have always said that I will survey parents at the end of a school year to try to understand what works, and what aspects of my practice require retooling. This is the year I'll finally do just that.
A lot of what I've learned about Parent/Teacher communication over the years has come from first doing my best and then reflecting so that next time, I can do better. Much of what I shared today seems like it should be common sense. Only, having mentored lots of teachers over the years, I have come to learn that teachers, like students, can benefit form some explicit instruction around communication.
It really was an honor to meet these teachers today. They are the future of education. They are well equipped to grab the torch and run with it. I hope that there was some small thing that I shared today that will help them on their journey.
Interested in what I shared? Here is my presentation less a few side trips: