Typing this post is testimony that I survived the first week of school. I’ll give a brief Sports Center rundown of the highlights:
- Thrilled that my returning students quickly settled back into the classroom routine.
- Met seven amazing, full-of-personality sixth graders.
- Was informed that I will likely receive another student in the upcoming weeks along with an individual assistant for that student.
- Discovered I have an IEP to write for a student I’ve known for approximately four days.
- Had one of my students accidently activate the fire alarm in the cafeteria during lunchtime.
Needless to say, I did not set my alarm clock on Saturday! Oh, and on a personal note, I got engaged this weekend! I’ve definitely been blessed with an exciting week!
With the first days of school behind me, I am now determined to begin the year by making changes I felt were necessary based upon my reflection on last year. Near the top of that list of changes is increased communication with and involvement with parents/guardians. Last year, so much of my time was spent figuring out how to keep the steam engine that is my classroom rolling; I definitely fell short in this area.
I mainly spoke to parents/guardians at IEP meetings, when kids were sick or needed something at school, or when I needed their signatures on some type of paperwork. I know this limited interaction does nothing to help my students. Parents and/or guardians are the experts. They know their child’s strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, habits, behaviors, and quirks better than anyone.
So, now that I’ve identified my area of deficit, what am I going to do about it? First of all, I created a student information sheet to be filled out by parents/guardians. It has the basic address, birthday, phone number stuff, but also includes questions like: What do you consider your child’s strengths? What three things would you like to see your child accomplish this year? Briefly describe what you see your child doing in 10 years. Do I always get answers to these types of questions? No, but the ones that parents do provide me with are very helpful insights on my students.
Second, I am going to make taking time to talk to parents, either face-to-face or over the phone, a higher priority. Last year, I would often catch myself rushing through phone calls from parents during the day or hurrying up conversations with parents at the end of the school day as they were picking up their children. It had nothing to do with me not wanting to talk to them, I just had a billion other things running through my mind that needed to be done. I’ve come to realize that this is flawed thinking. I now understand that it’s crucial for parents/guardians to know and feel comfortable with me. After all, they are entrusting me with their children’s education and their personal safety and well-being for seven hours every school day.
School has only been in session four full days and my New School Year Resolutions have already been put to the test. The student information sheets were promptly sent home (along with the 50 other pieces of “very important” paperwork parents/guardians get inundated with at the beginning of every school year), and my assistants helped make sure that sheets were returned for each student.
I took time to read each sheet and my wonderful assistants (who I could not survive without) made a chart with important facts about each student. Also, I have had nice face-to-face or phone conversations with five parents already. My favorite part of bumping this up the priority list is that I always find out something new about my students when I take time to just talk with their parents/guardians. I so value this insight and know it will help me better serve my students and their families.
Even though I’m making progress in the area of parent/guardian communication, I know I’ve still got plenty of room to grow.
What ways do you guys get parents/guardians involved? How do you build relationships and rapport with parents/guardians?