Partnering with Parents

One of the workshops I really enjoyed was about how to work with different types of parents. It offered a lot of great practical advice and suggestions. This workshop was led by Dr. Paul Wrobbel from Illinois.

Different Types of Parents:
1) The Elusive Parent– Fearful of teachers. Prefers minimal contact with teachers.

How to approach them: Reach out to them very early in the school year. Send out a welcome letter in the summer to all the families in your class. Conduct home visits in the summer if possible.

2) The Angry Parent– Often will say things like, “Not my child!”

How to avoid attack form them: Enlist their help, by asking them questions about their child. Use soft language such as: “I’m wondering if you ever noticed if…” “Have you ever seen this behavior at home? ”

Thank them for their help. Make them into partners.

Do not delay contact with them. Make contact quickly. They want to know what’s going on.

Provide evidence of the problem. Make copies of the academic work, or have other adults (teachers) who have also seen the problem.

3) The Eager Parent- They are the parents that love to help out and are at school everyday.

How to cultivate them: Have them become your room mom/dad. Have them come in to  help and organize.  They are very valuable members of the community. Ask them to help you with things, like finding outside resources and field trip ideas.

4) The Busy Parent– They are really busy with work and other responsibilities. Often they may not even be at home or in the country.

How to catch them: They want you to stay in touch with you, so get digital! Use e-mail, texting, blogs, podcasts, etc to keep in touch with them. Regardless of the response you get from them, keep the communication going. Keep them connected to the classroom. I hope to write a separate entry about podcasting next!

5) The English-Learning Parent– They are often difficult to attract to the classroom environment. They have difficulty speaking English.

How to reach them: For some reason I didn’t write anything down in this section and I can’t remember what he said. My advice would be to find people to help translate for them when meeting for conferences or calls home. Don’t have the kids translate!

6 Keys to Successful Communication with Parents:

1. Partnership– Remember that it is a partnership. We are part of the TEAM. Respond constructively to parent concerns and be sensitive to parental needs.

2. Words of Affirmation– Send positive notes home and positive phone calls as well.

3. Openness– Display an open posture towards parents. Greet them & acknowledge them when you see them. Be open with them. Use common language (not teacher talk).

4. Prompt Communication– Any type of communication from a parent should have a 24 hour response time. When you delay communication, it could show that you don’t care.

Put up some boundaries. Don’t give out personal cell phone numbers. If you don’t answer school e-mails outside of school, let parents know that.

Create calendar reminders to follow up with parents. Always lean towards too much communication, rather than too little.

5. Informed Administration– Keep the administration informed about problems or concerns. Therefore, if parents go to the principal about a problem, the principal will already have some background knowledge and be able to support you.

6. Confidentiality and Teacher Talk– Don’t poison the well for other teachers about students. Be careful about what information you share about your students with other teachers.

Some other good highlights were:

*Be proactive!  Parents will see you as a caring teacher.

*Don’t take things personally.

Agents of Change

I had a really amazing time at the ACSI Conference for Christian Educators this past thanksgiving weekend in Suwon, Korea. I did volunteer to sign up with some other teachers from my school to attend this conference during our thanksgiving break! 🙂 But, it was well worth it. It was my first time attending a professional conference for Christian educators which was cool. It was like a mixture of work & church.

I loved that in the morning sessions we started with prayer, sang praise songs and had amazing speakers. It was moving to worship with other Christian educators from all over Asia. One of the sessions I was really really inspired by was the speech by Dr. Wess Stafford, the president of Compassion International. He shared his testimony about growing up as a missionary kid in Africa and then what happened when he came to the states in high school. My friend Melody wrote his testimony on her blog, so please check it out!

His whole speech had me in tears and helped remind me about why I chose to come into education. He kept encouraging us to speak up for children who don’t have a voice.  As teachers, we have an incredibly important job to be agents of change and to help give our students a VOICE.

I’m going to write at least two more entries about some of the workshops I attended and what I learned from them! Sharing is caring!! 🙂

boys vs. girls

Today, I went to pick up my students from music class and one of the boys in my class was waiting for me. I automatically sensed the worried look on his innocent face and asked him how music went. He started to tell me how there were some problems and it was from the girls. I continued to ask him what kind of problems. He told me that the girls were saying inappropriate things. I thought to myself, oh no…

“One of the girls asked me if I liked anyone,” he replied seriously.  Inside I felt a sense of relief. I wanted to laugh, but instead I kept my serious teacher face and continued to agree with him that it was not appropriate. I ended up having a whole class discussion with my students that it wasn’t appropriate to be asking students who they “liked”. Another boy raised his hand and complained that a girl had asked him an inappropriate question as well. Well, considering that I have 12 girls and 5 boys in my class, I know this is only the start of it…

For more slice of life stories go to: http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com

the best teacher gift.

I still think that the best and most heart warming gifts that I’ve received as a teacher have been hand made cards or letters from student. I love it when my students actually make me things. I try to keep all the cards and letters that my students have given me.

This past week we had parent/teacher conferences. I received this nice mug from one of the parents, but the card written by my student was far more rewarding and meaningful for me. She wrote the sweetest thank you note with a drawing.

It’s so cute, even though she drew me as a googooba (a korean cartoon figure they love to draw). I love how she drew such a detailed picture of our actual classroom including the smart board and broom in the background.

For more slice of life story entries go to: http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/

Ending Strongly

I received another lovely message about my blog from one of my old co-workers who is now teaching in India! 🙂 She asked me about what I taught my students about writing strong endings. For my small group mini-lesson on writing good endings, I discussed with my students the importance of showing the “heart” of the story in their endings. I emphasized the importance of showing the heart instead of just telling it. The “heart” of the story would be what the underlying message/lesson the author is trying to show.

Usually, students tend to write endings like, “The lesson I learned was to be nice to everyone.” or “Sally and Jessica were best friends now.” I discussed the importance of showing the resolution in your ending without directly telling the reader as well.

One of the texts we used as a mentor text in our realistic fiction unit was this short story called “Your Name in Gold”. I love using the ending of this story as an example of a strong ending.

Your Name In Gold
Anne sat at the breakfast table, eating her cornflakes and reading the print on the cereal box in front of her. “Tastee Cornflakes – Great New Offer!” the box read. “See back of box for details.” 

Anne’s older sister, Mary, sat across from her, reading the other side of the cereal box. “Hey, Anne,” she said, “look at this awesome prize – `your name in gold’.”

As Mary read on, Anne’s interest in the prize grew. “Just send in one dollar with proof-of-purchase seal from this box and spell out your first name on the information blank. We will send you a special pin with your name spelled in gold. (Only one per family, please.)”

Anne grabbed the box and looked on the back, her eyes brightening with excitement.

The name “Jennifer” was spelled out in sparkling gold. “That’s a neat idea,” she said. “A pin with my very own name spelled out in gold. I’m going to send in for it.”

“Sorry, Anne, I saw it first,” said Mary, “so I get first dibs on it. Besides, you don’t have a dollar to send in, and I do.”

“But I want a pin like that so badly,” said Anne. “Please let me have it!”

“Nope,” said her sister.

“You always get your way – just because you’re older than me,” said Anne, her lower lip trembling as her eyes filled with tears. “Just go ahead and send in for it. See if I care!” She threw down her spoon and ran from the kitchen.

Several weeks passed. One day the mailman brought a small package addressed to Mary. Anne was dying to see the pin, but she wouldn’t let Mary know how eager she was. Mary took the package to her room. Anne casually followed her in and sat on the bed.

“Well, I guess they sent you your pin. I sure hope you like it,” Anne said in a mean voice.

Mary slowly took the paper off the package. She opened a little white box and carefully lifted off the top layer of white cotton. “Oh, it’s beautiful!” Mary said. “Just like the cereal box said, `your name in gold’. Four beautiful letters. Would you like to see it, Anne?”

“No, I don’t care about your dumb old pin.”

Mary put the white box on the dresser and went downstairs.

Anne was alone in the bedroom. Soon she couldn’t wait any longer, so she walked over to the dresser. As she looked in the small white box, she gasped. Mixed feelings of love for her sister and shame at herself welled up within her, and the pin became a sparkling gold blur through her tears.

There on the pin were four beautiful letters – her name in gold: A-N-N-E.

By A. F. Bauman

penpals

I used to love getting letters from my friends especially in middle school. I remember sending letters to friends at sleep away camp and to friends that moved. There’s just something so special about opening an envelope that’s so much more exciting then pressing the inbox tab on your e-mail account.

This year, I am doing penpals with an old co-worker from my school in NYC. I told my students last week and they were super excited about having penpals with students in NYC. One of my students said why don’t we just e-mail them…I told them it would be much cooler to get actual letters even though it takes longer. In addition to their letters, we made a book with pictures of our school, so they could see what our school and environment looks like. I mailed the letters and now we are anxiously waiting for a reply!

The more I teach writing and write on my own, the more I realize the importance in having an authentic audience. It makes the writing much more meaningful for myself if I know other people will actually read what I write. Just some food for thought!

Some photos that my students took for the book we made: