Creating Parents as Partners- Part One
If you are just joining us for Part One of the "Creating Parents as Partners" series, please check out the series introduction from yesterday, August 10, 2014.
After my dad's recovery, he began chemotherapy to kill cancerous cells that spread from the massive tumor the doctor's removed last August in an emergency surgery. It took me about nine months to get to a chemotherapy appointment with my father. Nine months. Sound familiar? No, no baby here. Just a school year that was interfering with family time. My father wasn't too happy that I was joining him at the appointment. I ask many questions and inquire about my dad's current status, goals for the future, etc. But, wouldn't you?! It was this appointment that brought me even closer to the realization of what I had been doing for years in my classroom without even knowing it.
As the back door slammed, all of the patients let out a sigh of relief. The doctor arrived at the office. As soon as he arrives the four patients awaiting the "juice" (as my dad calls it), can start the long two hours process of watching all of the fluids slowing drip into their ports that were surgical implanted in their chests. The doctor's face lit up as he walked into Room 1. "Oh, Laura! How have you been? We miss you!" the doctor exclaimed.
My dad's face lit up too. He is a proud father and loves when he hears nice things about his eldest daughter. The doctor asked some questions about where I was teaching and told me how the parents miss me. Later, when he returned to check on my father, he made one important statement. He said something to this effect, "We always knew what was going on when my child was in your class. You sent home that weekly note to tell us what he was learning and how we can help at home. We don't have any idea what he has been learning since he left your class."
WOW! A very informed, well-respected oncologist liked something the, at the time, 24-year-old teacher was doing and impacted his whole view of the education I provided for his child and the other students in my classroom.
So...here is the lowdown on the weekly note he was referring to:
Every week, on top of the weekly homework packet, I place a note that has a small paragraph about something that happened the previous week or that is happening in the next two weeks for families of my students. Then, in the boxes, as you can see below in the photographs, I list each subject for the upcoming week. This is where I inform parents about what their children are learning that week. It gives them the heads up on homework and a direction to support their children at home.
The photograph on the left shows a September version with the Fundations box with the letters we are learning that week. By April, as seen in the photograph on the right, there are more sight words, etc.
I feature a "Coming Soon" box where parents can count on me informing them about important dates that they might need a babysitter (such as when school is on an early release schedule or there's a parent night.) I ALWAYS inform my parents of events as soon as I know the final date. The school sends out great notices but always the week that the event occurs, so parents have a small window of time to make plans to attend. At most events in the past year, my class had the highest parent involvement and I believe this is why!
Things change often so a monthly calendar is usually not as easy to maintain for me. There are too many changes that I would have to send so many updates that parents would get the calendars mixed up. I stick to this weekly notice that I staple on top of their child's homework packet. Parents become routinized and except the notice and homework. If their child doesn't have it, they immediately contact me because they know that this is how this system works in my classroom.
If this prestigious doctor was impressed with this way I communicated with parents, don't you think most parents would appreciate knowing what is happening at school? Tomorrow...more on ways I build parents as partners in my classroom.