Thank you for your advice on achieving work-life balance. It was encouraging to reflect on what I have accomplished already. You’re right, I have set up a classroom, routines and expectations, and prepared lessons for seven weeks. That’s a lot of work! Beyond that, and possibly even more exciting, is the fact that I have seen reluctant readers realize that they love reading again and students who were disengaged are now working hard and achieving a lot in class. I’ve made phone calls to parents celebrating the successes of their students. That certainly makes me feel good.
This past weekend was also a victory for me. I brought home a fat stack of papers to grade and you’ll be happy to know that I didn’t grade a single one! I was too busy buying my fall pumpkins and flowers and accomplishing some gardening therapy. The weather was nice and I was outside enjoying time with my family, which was so therapeutic. Yes, there was still the undercurrent of low-level stress that resided in my mind due to uncompleted work tasks, but I am learning to acknowledge those feelings and let them pass so that I can truly engage in recreation. In addition to letting the papers wait and using the weekend to recharge, I have also been trying to carve out micro moments of rest in my workday. I bought myself an electric teapot so that I can make myself a cup of tea at the beginning of my plan period. It gives me a moment to breathe before plunging into grading or planning. My next step is to build in a moment of meditation, like you suggested, during the workday. A five minute break for meditation doesn’t seem like much, but allowing my mind to let go of all the things that I am thinking, planning, and worrying about during the school day is an epic struggle for me.
In other news, I recently had my first round of parent-teacher conferences. I was excited to get to meet the parents of my students and gain more insight into their lives. I firmly believe that educating young people works best when teachers partner shoulder to shoulder with parents. A strong partnership with parents is one of the biggest predictors of student success, so making the school-home connection is crucial in helping students have the best educational experience possible.
In my seven short weeks as a teacher, I have learned that dealing with parents can be a source of encouragement and helpful insight, but it can also be a minefield of stressful and disheartening encounters ranging from curt emails to a full blown disgruntled face-to-face encounter. Or, as I found out with conferences, there is often a complete lack of interaction because parents are either unwilling or unable to make the connection with their child’s teacher.
Because parent-teacher partnership is an incredibly important piece to the puzzle of student achievement, I know I must develop effective strategies to cultivate successful partnerships with parents. So, my question to you, Lisa, is how do I increase parent engagement efficiently? As you gathered in my last post, I am feeling pretty swamped with the basics of lesson planning and grading, so my calls and emails usually have to do with the really good or the really bad. The majority of my students are operating somewhere in between and I have had no interaction with most of their parents. I want to make sure that ALL of my students get the attention they deserve, and since I only had around 8% of parents show up for conferences, are there other ways that you suggest connecting with parents that won’t eat up a lot of time?
On the other end of the spectrum are parents that are hypervigilant when it comes to monitoring the grades of their child. I understand how invested parents are in the lives of their children, and the desire to helicopter to ensure kids do their best possible and make the right choices at all times is understandably strong. However, I can’t help thinking that parents who are overly involved to the point of being controlling are doing more harm than good. After all, my students will be legal adults in two years and will presumably be on their own in the “real world”. My understanding is that as an educator I am not only teaching kids content, but I am also encouraging students to take ownership of their actions in the classroom. So, is there a way to interact with parents in such a way as to minimize the negative impact of this helicopter behavior?
I’m really looking forward to hearing from you and other veteran teachers. Tell me your best strategies for building strong partnerships with parents!
Show a newbie some love and connect with Amanda on Twitter; her handle is @ateacherstory.
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