Last year, I remember sitting at the table and having barely any parents approach me. Remember that I live in a town with only a couple thousands of people. I had to connect with people through phone calls or approach them over the past year before the town slowly got to know me.
So the second year is definitely a lot easier. I actually had a small line-up of mothers waiting to speak with me! The administration expects us to hand out “anecdotal reports”, a checklist of behaviours and misbehaviours of each student. I hate the form and don’t find it productive, so instead, I tethered onto my cellphone and loaded all the student’s grades on my Macbook Air. The parents loved it!
Think of a stoplight. Red represents stagnation, yellow means slowly getting there and green is great. In a quick glance, you can see how a child has been progressing (or not progressing). This is an example of standards-based grading (SBG), which I’d been raving above. Here’s one example out of my Secondary 5 class:
I also made it a point to explain to parents that our school board is currently pumping a lot of money into web tools. I see it as a way to address one of the biggest issues we have: high rates of absenteeism. Students may be off “in the bush” hunting (good weather can cause the schools to empty out) and away in the city with family for a hospital visit. I’ve sent off papers before a child goes out of town, but they often don’t ever make it back. Who can blame them when a child has no guidance or have never seen a concept or come across a vocabulary word?
In dealing with that, if we can put tools in students’ hands and give them more responsibility for their own learning, this would remove excuses for missing school work on long absences. Some of the programs that we currently use, like Facile Learning and Math-Help-Services, are aligned with the Quebec high school standards and have built in video lessons and assessment tools. Even better is if there is a mobile app for kids to check in easily! It not only helps those who may miss class, but it’s an engaging way to help those who want to learn more!
It was also nice to put a face to some of the parents I’d been talking to or connecting with through Facebook (the most common type of communication up here). A lot of parents were happy to connect with me face-to-face and ask questions. I feel that they trust me with their child’s success. I even had one mother ask me to text her every time her son doesn’t show up in class! I said, I’d be happy to help her out *evil cackle*
I also got too more parents signed up for Remind.com! One of the parents mentioned that her daughter really likes it. I sent out little reminders for homework or put in a hint for an upcoming test. I can’t see the student’s phone numbers and they can’t see mine. It is apparently used by 20% of all teachers in the United States (according to the company website).
Just to prove how effective it is, I sent out a reminder today and got four assignments completed on Edmodo.com! Here’s a screenshot:
And not to brag – maybe just a little – a student told me in front of her parents, “Thanks for being a good teacher.”
Woohoo! What a successful night!