In the past parent night has been much less about the kids and parents and much more about the rules, homework and curriculum. In thinking about how my philosophy has changed over the last year I knew that I needed to do something different that would help parents understand that academics are certainly important, but my biggest goal is to help their children grow and thrive as individuals. I also wanted to explain why our team was a little bit different than others, since people in small towns do talk, and I had some very special students whose stories needed to be shared.
So rather than my traditional, "Here are the rules, here's what we do in reading, here's what we do in math...." kind of schpeal, as the parents came in they had an assignment. They had a questionnaire to help me get to know them and their children a little bit better. For the first 15 minutes, they took some time and answered the following questions:
- What is one thing I need to know about your child to help him or her be successful this year?
- What is one goal you have for your child for fourth grade?
- What is one thing you need from me to support your child's learning at home?
- Is there any other important information you'd like me to know so I can better support your child here at school?
- Would you be interested in coming to evening trainings about Daily 5 and the technology tools that we are using in the classroom?
While the parents were answering those questions I was able to walk around and personally greet each family that came in and thank them for coming. While only 11 of my students were represented (50% of my class), there were 18 adults so I was very pleased with the turnout.
After the first 15 minutes I got started with my talk. While I did spend a bit of time with the traditional homework / rules / curriculum piece, a majority of my time was spent talking about my philosophy of education, how we are working to build community and become good people, how we use technology to meet those goals, and helping the parents who were in attendance understand the special health needs of my two students. We also spent some time looking at our class blog, our student blogs and our twitter account so parents could start getting involved right away online.
While I still feel like I talked to much, I feel much better about the content of my talking. I did what I wish my administrators would do during faculty meetings: cut out the information that could simply be posted online and focused on topics that were important to the parents.
What made me feel so positive about the evening was the fact that the change in format allowed me to greet every family in the beginning and allowed enough free time at the end to have a short personal conversation with every parent or set of parents. Between the face to face interaction and the meaningful answers parents gave me I have already started to develop positive relationships with families so we can work together to help the kids grow throughout the year.
One thing that I've been thinking about a lot and wrote about here is that at some point we have to stop just talking about things online and start DOING them in our classroom. This is one example of how a very small change to better match my new philosophy will continue to pay huge dividends throughout the school year.