I am a mom of four. All of my children will be in school this year…how is that possible!? I will have one in junior high, two in grade school, and one in preschool. One of my favorite parts of having my own children in school is to hear how they are doing in their own classrooms, how they are with their peers, and who they are as a learner from their teachers.
Parent communication is very important to me (Meg) not only as a parent but as a teacher. When you stay connected with parents/guardians you build a relationship between home and school. This allows you, as their teacher, to learn about their home life to help better meet their needs in the classroom. It also opens the doors for you as the teacher to work together with the parents/guardians to give the best learning experience for their student.
There are many different ways you can communicate with parents/guardians in your classroom. Whatever you choose, it should be what you feel most comfortable with. My rule of thumb for communication is to make sure I am sending home positive notes or messages about each student frequently, especially your challenging students. Trust me, the parents/guardians know their student is difficult and when you make a phone call home or send a message they are expecting it to be bad. Turn that narrative around and surprise them and share a positive. The impact on the relationship between parents, teachers, and students is powerful.
Ideas for Family Communication
Monthly Newsletter: Create a template that you can easily change out each month to give families updates on what is happening in your classroom. You could include what you are learning about, upcoming activities, school happenings, important dates, etc… Keep it simple and add some pictures.
Unit Family Letter: If you have started to create IntegratED Units with us or have tried them on your own, create a newsletter letting parents know what is coming up in their learning. This puts families in the know for a great start to a discussion at the dinner table. Bonus: If parents/guardians have an idea about the topic it gives them a pathway to tell their student what they know.
Instant Messaging (Class DoJo, Remind, etc.): I am constantly seeing notes home on the floor after the bell has rang and students have left. You know the one saying we are going on a field trip and to make sure to pack a lunch. Using an app that supports instant messaging allows us and families to make a quick reminder or message home, taking away the stress of wondering if your student got that very important paper home safe. You can also send out pictures and reminders on a “Class Story” so families can see what is happening in the classroom.
Volunteers: At the beginning of each quarter send out a volunteer letter. This might be something that is going on in your building or in your classroom. I have met so many family members that would love to dedicate some of their time during the week helping me or my students. Some ideas to put on your list are: listening to students read, playing a game, cutting out lamination, helping with PTO activities, etc…
Real teacher talk coming at you, because I know so many of you will understand. As I sit down to write this blog, my mind is going a million miles a minute thinking about school and all the things that I need to start doing. Anyone else have that happening to them? It’s like on August 1, a switch gets turned on in my brain and I go into school mode. I want to enjoy the rest of my summer, what little is left, but school starts to take over my thoughts.
The beginning of the school year comes with so many mixed feelings. The top two… excitement and stress. If you’re like me, you get excited to set up your classroom, meet your new students, catch up with colleagues, and have that sense of refreshness and new beginnings. But there is a flip side to that as well. You start to feel a bit stressed as the to-do lists get longer, the time in your classroom to work gets shorter, and the laminator breaks! 😉 Add to that a new grade level, new team members, or a new school and you have a stressed out teacher before students ever enter the classroom!
We all want to start the new year with our best foot forward. So we put together a few ideas that help us minimize the stress and keep the excitement level up! We hope this might help you as well!
Setting Boundaries: This is one thing that I (Kara) had to learn the hard way when I first began teaching. I did not set boundaries at all when I first began my career and almost quite within the first 6 months of teaching. You need to set up boundaries for you and your family. School does not need to become your end all be all. Is it important, yes but it cannot take over everything. Set a time that you are going to leave everyday and stick to it. It will help you utilize any planning time more effectively and prioritize what needs to be done. Don’t bring it home! Don’t bring home a crate full of things to work on every night. I know there are certain times when it does happen, but don’t make that your habit and your norm!
Gratitude: Look for at least 5 things that you were grateful for during the day. During this time of the year because of the stress we experience, we can become quite hyper focused on the negative. Take a moment to breathe and think back on the day. What are 5 things that you were grateful for? It could be something as simple as a coworker complimenting your outfit. When we focus on the good, the good only gets better! And then the negative doesn’t take as strong of hold in our lives. When we can be grateful, we can have joy!
Flexibility: No matter how good of a plan you have laid out, we know as educators there will always be something thrown at us that we didn’t expect! Flexibility is an attribute that good educators possess and the beginning of the year is when we have to bend and flex the most.
Team Building: This year we have a brand new team. I am so incredibly excited for it, but it can be nerve wracking thinking about how to make it all work with new team members. See… stressed but excited! 😉 Even if you have a veteran team, it is always good to start the year off on the right foot. Think of different things that will encourage one another and support one another. If you don’t have a team, those in your building. Small beginning of the year gifts, coffee runs, quarterly breakfasts, their favorite candy or drink stashed in your desk that you could give them if they are having a bad day, collaborative planning times, and shared resources are just a few small gestures that could go a long way in building up your team.
FUN: Plan for some FUN! The beginning of the year is the perfect time for those fun icebreakers and games (also great community building activities). Oftentimes we can bombard students with the drill and kill of routines and procedures. It can make for long days, off task students, and tired teachers. Yes, of course routines and procedures need to be taught, but there are so many creative ways that it can be done. Task cards, class contests, board games, mentor texts are just some ways you could teach routines and procedures while adding in some fun! If you are excited for an activity, it is contagious and the students will be too!
Grace: Give yourself grace as easily as you give it to others. There is a lot to be done in a short amount of time. And if you’re anything like me, a bit of a perfectionist and can get down on myself when things are not all crossed off the list or something didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. We just need to remember that students are not needing perfection, they are just needing YOU!
As the school year gets underway, here at IntegratED we are wishing you the very best school year!
Also, if you are starting the school year and feeling a bit overwhelmed with knowing what and how to plan, there are still two spots available in our cohort! Check out our website for more information!
Megan and Kara are educational leaders, professional development experts, and current classroom teachers who are improving the way instruction is being delivered in the standard classroom.