Education Opinion

Extending Connections With Families

By Christine Pinto — December 14, 2017 4 min read
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Dear Lisa,

Thank you for reflecting with me in your last post about classroom culture and for resources to learn more about integrating a Morning Meeting. I must comment how I am so happy to hear that as a principal, you heard the idea of a Morning Meeting from a new teacher and decided to explore this process with teachers on staff. Since you did more than just listen to this new teacher’s idea, I can imagine she felt like what she shared had value and was excited to see others pursuing something that she had proposed for a solution to promote positive school and classroom culture. New teachers DO have wonderful ideas and they need to be brave in sharing them!

While I have heard of Morning Meeting, I have not taken the time to collect information on it. You’ve provided me with the resources and steps I need to get started. I feel like it is something I can see myself incorporating it in the classroom to build that “respectful learning” and positive environment. This has me thinking even further on how I could bridge the culture and experiences that are created within the classroom and extend them at home with the kids’ families.

I think the first step to building family connections is having open communication and being accessible. My families know that they can currently contact me through email or through the Bloomz app. I also have the benefit of seeing parents before and after school during drop off and pick up times. While I don’t want to overwhelm parents with too many ways of finding out information, I do want to provide a few options that can work for them. The Bloomz app is user friendly and handy when I want to send out a reminder, like to remember to send the library book to school! There are many other features that I like about the Bloomz app, some of which include a way to set up conferences, sign-ups for items for classroom parties or supplies, and the ability for parents to select their preferred language.

I would like to connect my families to more of what we are doing in class. I send home a weekly newsletter, but I feel like I can share information in a more meaningful way. At student-led conferences, the kids and I walked their parents through Google Classroom and I shared how I was going to be putting a parent corner with digital and non-digital activities we do in class. I only have a few parents who check in with our Google Classroom at home. Perhaps I need to facilitate a meeting where parents bring the device they will be using to access their child’s Google Classroom account, so that they can ask me questions and can become familiar with the navigating piece. (I know that having access to technology and Wi-Fi at home is not an issue because I did a survey at the beginning of the year.) I know the next approach I take to connecting families needs to be one that will be seamless.

I am not a parent, but I do try to empathize and think of what it is like to have a child of my own and try to juggle everyday life responsibilities. What would I hope my child’s teacher would to to help me feel connected to what is happening in the classroom? How often would I want my child’s teacher to communicate with me? How much communication is too much?

One of my really good teacher friends, Jessica Twomey, has shared that she creates digital newsletters for her families. These newsletters are so unique, Lisa! Jessica takes photos and video snippets of the kids in action during class, along with work samples from the kids, and compiles them into a short video! She ties in music to play in the background of the video and will even include a narration of her voice to reflect on learning experiences or explain what learning activities and goals are upcoming.

Jessica says that a digital newsletters not only keep families connected to what what their children are doing in the classroom, but it also gives the kids an opportunity to really process their learning and reflect more with their families when they tune in at home. She also shared that from a teacher standpoint, the process of creating a digital newsletter helps her to identify areas of interest and challenges so that she can further her instruction.

This approach to connecting families sounds like an all around win for parents, the kids, and the teacher! If I was a parent, I would look forward to the discussions with my child were stemmed from the digital newsletters created by the teacher. In her post, “I Play and Share in Digital Newsletters,” Jessica shares more on the importance of making learning visible, tools she has used in creating the digital newsletters, and some samples! My goal is to make a digital newsletter before we go on Winter Break! Below is one of Jessica’s digital newsletters about a collaborative cross-grade level experience.

Am I headed in the right direction, Lisa? I want my families to feel connected to what their kids are learning about and my students to feel like they can articulate and reflect on their experiences at school. What ideas or resources can you share with me and the new teacher community to help us extend communication and connections with families?

Thank you for recommendations!

Christine Pinto

The opinions expressed in The New Teacher Chat: Advice, Tips, and Support are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.