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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Parent - Teacher Communication

Several beginning teacher friends out there asked for help. I'm happy to oblige. :D

There are three basic LOVES/NEEDS/MUSTS I have in teaching:

  1. Parent Communication
  2. Know Your Standards/Pacing and Planning
  3. Tracking & Demonstrating Student Progress

They are essential regardless of grade level.

They are what I've strongly expressed to every student teacher I've ever had that they cannot live without.

This post is about the first one. And...it's wordy. That's the way I am. I like to think of it as thorough. Some probably would say it's babbling. Either way, if you are a beginning teacher and looking for a place to start - it should be very helpful.
My views on how to handle parents and communication with them has developed into a bigger piece of my teaching style over the years. The ways in which my own children's teachers communicated (or not) greatly affected the way I decided it was important to communicate with the parents of my students. I always try assess things from the eyes of a parent. You don't have to be a parent to be able to do this. You just have to relate and keep in mind the views of a parent. How would you feel, what would you do... if this was your child?

Nothing is more difficult than having a child who is NOT ready for the current grade level and parents who had no clue. Be honest, if the child is struggling, below grade level, not grasping new concepts, immature, unaware... whatever it is - be kind and honest and tactful with the parents. Most are unaware of the challenges in todays classrooms. Most have NO idea about the depth and complexities of standards and expectations. If you aren't honest with the parents of a struggling student and then pass that student on, you have made the following teacher's year extremely difficult.

My parents know I'm available. Around my 2nd or 3rd year of teaching, I began giving my parents a magnet with my "business card" on it. They have my email (work & personal), my phone # (work and home) - many of them text me. I have found that the more I share the lovely things... text to parent: Just wanted to share this quick picture I took of what Sue wrote in her journal about her weekend at the beach with you - so cute! ... the more they will listen and not be offended nor defensive when I have to share something a little difficult. They call me by my first name. Some people say this is NOT the way to work with parents. That you must maintain a level of authority by being addressed properly (i.e. Mrs. Clausen) and maintaining distance (i.e. no home #'s or emails). I don't agree with this philosophy. So many of my students' parents have become my wonderful friends. I believe nearly all of my parents have appreciated my willingness to work with them as an important part of their child's life.

This year I ordered the cards for free from Vista Print. (I had to pay the shipping). It was so worth it. No cutting, no using my ink. Just open the box and stick them on the magnets.

I use these business card-sized magnets for all kinds of things in the classroom. The sticky side sticks to things VERY well.
Amazing art by: Majeak Ann
My class website is filled with information and downloadable copies of our weekly homework  in case someone wants to get started early, loses theirs, or is absent. I do not care if they want to go ahead. If they have that much ambition - more power to them. Plus, our family schedules are crazy now-a-days. I like to help instead of becoming yet another obstacle, whenever I can. On my class website, my families will also find a calendar of events for the month, important vocabulary we are learning, links to helpful websites as well as some generic information.

At the beginning of the year, I send home a little card for the parents to complete. This not only tells me about the child, but helps me understand the parent's perception/relationship with their child. This is just a sample - it is actually copied 2-sided. You can grab your own copy {here}.
I also attach a detailed welcome letter to our parent packets that go home at Meet Your Teacher or the first day of school. 
Click {Here} to download a .pdf of this. It isn't editable, but may serve to give you a few ideas for something you'd like to incorporate.
Next Wednesday night is our Parent Information/Back-to-School night. It isn't a time to show off the room. It's basically a meeting... me and all the parents who are able to show up. It's my opportunity to share my philosophy, expectations and go over the general routine of the class, the school and first grade as a whole. This is when I give the parents a little tri-fold pamphlet I made for our team that details all that is expected, covered, required in first grade. It probably feels like overload. I find that many parents feel that Kinder and 1st grade are "play grades" and truly don't understand what all happens at this level. I want to help them be as informed as possible.

Click {HERE} if you'd like to download the pamphlet in a .pdf. If you are looking for something to hand out to parents, but don't know where to start - it may give you a few ideas. It isn't editable.


Every Friday I send home a note letting parents know what is coming up the following week and how their child's behavior was for the current week.
A newsletter/calendar is also sent home at the beginning of each month. This allows me to keep the parents informed about the standards we are covering in class, what is happening throughout the month, and any news they should be aware of. My teammates also use this in their nightly homework folders as a way to keep parents informed of their child's daily behavior. At the end of each day, the kids color in the box on that date on the calendar. They use the color that corresponds with where their discipline tile was at the end of the day. This could also be used with the clip chart type of management system. The kids could use the corresponding colors or key letters to indicate where their clip ended up at the day's end. I don't do daily homework so I don't utilize that little box in each day of the calendar.
It is a lot of work in the beginning to set all of these things into motion. But once it becomes routine, it's no big deal. Parents would much rather know they are leaving their child in the care of someone highly organized and informative over someone very disorganized and unclear.

In upcoming posts, I'll tackle Standards & Planning and Tracking & Demonstrating Student Progress.

Since these three basic things pretty much sum up all that I think is most important in teaching, I'm linking this up with TBA's Meet the Teacher linky.
Open House Week
Don't forget about my sale this weekend at TN.
I hope you were able to grab a few helpful things out of this LONG post. :D
What do you do to keep your parents informed and in the loop?


❤I LoVe your comments!❤
Photobucket

16 comments:

  1. Fab.U.Lous. Thanks for sharing. I am definitely going to have this ready for next year. Or next month. Can't wait til your next installment!
    Alyce

    Mrs. Bartel’s School Family

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  2. These are beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I wish I still taught 1st grade!

    Laurie
    Chickadee Jubilee

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  3. girl, I am in awe of you!!!
    I think I just don't do these things (except for the business cards) because our parents just don't read ANYTHING we send home...seriously. I will write something in the newsletter and the next day, I will have a parent ask me about something....that I PUT in the newsletter!! ahh!!!I just don't get it...I sometimes wish I worked in a school where parents are involved and such, then I could do amazing stuff like this!!

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  4. May I ask what program you used to create the newsletter and the brochure? They are GREAT!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I make everything in Word. :-)

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    2. Thanks for sharing - I love your brochure! Glad I stumbled on your blog.

      Looking forward to following you-

      -Kate @ The Wise Owl http://wiseowlteacher.blogspot.com/

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  5. I completely agree with giving out my personal information! I have been able to nip some problems (misunderstandings) in the bud quickly that would have likely resulted in a mad parent in my door or screaming about me to the principal the next morning.

    Parents have been so thankful that they can check up on their child or let me know of changes to transportation, etc..

    Love your brochure!

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  6. Traci,
    Wow! I do many of these things, but in just plain old boring black and white. Your information looks so wonderful that it makes parents WANT to read it. Well done!
    Camille
    An Open Door

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  7. Traci,
    Thank you so much for sharing your brochure! I am sitting down to make mine today (hopefully) and had no idea where to start! They look awesome!

    Sara :)
    Smiling In Second Grade

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  8. Great post, Traci! I'm thinking of making a brochure now...such a good idea.
    Barbara
    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers

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  9. Traci!
    I bet your parents are amazed by all your extras. Your organization is incredible! I am also so excited to see your planner rocking the best selling charts! So happy for you!

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  10. We don't even know where to start. Love it all! Love the magnet idea and could not agree more about parents and giving them personal info. Many have become great friends and we love being their flies on the wall during school with their kiddos.:) Your families are lucky to have you!!

    Christy & Tammy

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  11. Hi Traci -
    I love the idea of using Visa print...I did mine the old school way...LOL Next year I will switch. Your brochure is just beautiful -- you are so talented. Love all your ideas friend. Have a blessed week with your kiddos. I think you asked me last time how it's going with 30 and I didn't get a chance to respond...actually better than last year with 23. I've introduced WBT and am loving it.

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  12. I love your pamphlet. I just pinned it. I'm a new follower. Found you on TBA. Thanks for the ideas!
    ann

    The Caffeinated Classroom

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  13. This is awesome! I love your ideas. Thank you!

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