We all make mistakes. That is really one of the best ways to learn.
But if I could go back and fix one thing in my career, it would be communicating more with parents.
I taught for 15 wonderful years before I had my own children.
In those years, I was tough on my kids. I told my students, You are in charge of your work, you are in charge of writing things down and taking things home.
I still believe those words, but where I messed up was in not giving them a back up. In not giving the parents more. If I could go back to those years, I would send a daily email (or maybe weekly) to my parents.
Well, now that I have my own children I learned about “the ride home from school.” And I goes a little like this:
Me (aka Mom): Hi Love, how was your day at school?
Me: So what did you do today?
G: Hmm. We John and Ben are no longer best friends! They got in a fight over the ball and now they aren’t talking to each other anymore. But, I bet they will be best friends again tomorrow. They always do that!
Me: What did YOU do in school today?
G: (shy, sad, tired look begins) Nothing.
Me: You just sat in your chair all day long and did nothing.
Me: Did you read a book?
G: (shy, sad, tired look gets worse) Yes.
Me: What book?
G: (sighing heavily) I don’t remember. I’m hungry.
Me: Did you learn anything new?
G: (Heavy sobs begins) Beni (aka Little Brother) broke my paper airplane.
Me: (sighing heavily) Good talk. Good talk.
And END SCENE
For those of you with kids, you’ve heard it about 180 times a year.
But for those of you who haven’t started your own family, yet (those who were me the first 15 years of teaching) this conversation is REAL. It’s not some old tale. And you probably won’t change it. I used to say to myself. That will never be me. I am a teacher.
And my own kids have made me eat those words and well, a lot more!
After eating and digesting this (too many times), I realized I should have sent those tired parents a daily email. I would go back and change that conversation.
A quick email written either with the kids while they are packing up (teaching a life skill here) or right after they walk out the door could have changed that entire conversation.
Instead of of asking, “What did you do at school today?”
My student’s parents could have been asking, “Hey, I saw that you learned a new multiplication strategy today. Was that easier or harder than the other one you learned last week?”
How to fix it?
- Stop your day 5 minutes earlier.
- Tell the class it’s time to write our daily email.
- Model your parts of a letter/note/email writing skills.
- Let the students help you write it! This is a great review of the day. (Perfect for those lessons where you realized you are 2 minutes late for lunch and the end of the lesson summary gets cut short.)
- Hit send, and let them pack up. You may even want to keep a copy of your email up for the students to look at as they pack to make sure they have everything. (It’s harder to “just accidentally forget” something when they know that their parents will know.)
Below is my Email Template (feel free to copy it!):
We had a fabulous day today!
(Insert small anecdote, moment, something fabulous)
We learned a lot!
(Insert things your learned)
The Homework is:
Mrs. Zannini’s Class
(Add P.S. for any reminders)
Thoughts are swirling and some of them are: But, I don’t have time! I am swamped. They should do this themselves!
But, here is the thing. You will save time. More of your students will have their homework. More of your kids will have their materials and know where they are. You will have fewer crazed, tired, stressed parent emails at night or first thing in the am. You will have less notes on “he told me he had this right before bed and we didn’t have time.” And you will have happier parents!
Want more tips on managing your classroom? Click HERE!