Periods of Reflection

Just random musings from an elementary perspective. Views are my own.

Month: August, 2012

Differentiated Open School Night

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflecting over the past few weeks about how I can improve my practice, as well as ensure I am meeting the needs of all the varied learning styles in my classroom.  This thought process led me to also reflect upon how I can improve with my communication to parents. Last year I continued to use my classroom website, parent codes using Edmodo, Kidblog, poetry nights, and parent conferences. The feedback was fantastic from parents and families because it truly gave them an unprecedented view into our classroom and built the home/school connection.

One of the most important nights of the year is Open School Night. Meeting new parents during the first few days of school is tremendously exciting because it’s an opportunity to develop relationships and partnerships. However, during open school night, it’s the first and maybe only time we as educators will have the chance to address parents and families in such a large setting, unfortunitely.

What can we do to change that? The list below are some ways to keep families engaged. Keep in mind, this is just a beginning.

Ways to Involve Parents:

Progress Conferences
“Tech-Nights”
Poetry Nights
Author Nights
Family Math Nights
Family Days in Classroom
“Check-in” calls home

Back to open school night. How can I maximize my time with them? Do I create a standard presentation where parents just sit and listen? Is that engaging enough? Do they really just want to sit after a long day at work?

MY VISION

Upon entering the classroom, parents will be greeted with two laptops and a collaborative google doc.  They will be asked to enter  their first and last name, as well as email address and whether or not they have access to technology at home.  If parents don’t feel comfortable exposing whether or not they have access to technology at home, I can speak to them in private.

The next step would be a quick hello, a background about my teaching career, and a review of my classroom vision.

While reflecting, my thoughts led me to think about implementing a centers based approach using QR codes. Through discussions with many in the PLN, I was led to this post. Sara Allen’s Bulletin Boards and Signs. The idea of having QR codes for quick access to websites is fantastic and easy, as long as parents have a smartphone. Fortunately, our building was able to secure a cart of iPads, so having access to devices with QR  reader apps will be accessible during open school night.

Assuming parents have never been exposed to the platforms I will be using to meet their child’s needs and augment engagement, I plan on having centers focusing on Kidblog, EdmodoTenmarks, and my classroom website, which houses curriculum information.  The QR code at each center will direct them to my vision for purposeful tech implementation focused on the given platform, as well as how their child will be utilizing each platform. I can have 2-3 iPads set up at each center while I walk around, answer any clarifying question, and provide assistance to those who need it. I would set up a timer on my IWB and parents would rotate once it goes off.

Another benefit to this type of approach is parents would be experiencing making transitions, similar to the ones their child will be expected to make, because of my math workshop and literacy workshop model.  The time spent at the centers will also be an opportunity for parents to develop relationships with each other. After all parents have participated in each center, we will reconvene in a whole group setting and have a reflection period about what they learned and answer questions. This will help with planning for “Tech Nights” to ensure I am meeting their individual needs.

An additional follow-up to this night would be a parent survey, using google forms, to continue to build that rapport with parents and ensure their voices are heard and addressed.  Empowering parents and making them stakeholders in their child’s education is not a choice, it’s a priority.  It takes a team to move mountains and having the open dialogue and providing a support system at school and home will do nothing but serve their child’s best interest.

What do you think? Is this model possible? Has anyone tried this? What is the best way to inform parents about the upcoming adoption of the Common Core? I’d love to hear your feedback.

A Not-So-Quiet Revolution

There is a revolution happening in education. No, I don’t mean the reform bills that politicians and so-called “educational reformers” are trying to pass as a way to enhance student achievement based on more standardized testing. Educators have their backs against the wall with the incredible amount of directives that are handed down to us, as well as how we are portrayed by some in societies’ eyes.

You know those myths:

Teachers have summers off
Teachers only work a seven hour day
Teachers have too much time off
Your school is failing because students are not passing a test
Etc…etc…etc…

The revolution I’m referring to is global collaboration, flattening of our classroom walls, and self directed professional development. Gone are the days of working in isolation in the confines of your own classroom and grade level teams. Through the use of web tools such as Skype and Google + Hangout, as well as social media, educators can make incredible connections, grow professionally, and exchange ideas with others around the world, 24/7.

This is the revolution. This is now. Educators are connecting in ways that were never possible before the adoption of social media and blogs. Not only does it provide a platform to reflect on your own practice and extend your thinking, but the abundance of the sharing of resources is remarkable. Go ahead. Dive in. Looking for ways to understand twitter? How about doing a quick search on Pinterest for Common Core resources. The possibilities are endless!

Here is a real life example.

Thanks to the connections I’ve made through Twitter and my PLN (Personal Learning Network), I was able to connect with fellow educators around our country to discuss implementation of the Daily 5. For those unfamiliar with the Daily 5, click this link. The educators I was able to connect with were @jennregruth, @apratt5, and @ncarroll24.

Side note: If you don’t follow them on twitter, you probably should!

The only experience I’ve had with the literacy structure is the reading of the Daily 5 and CAFE Book. However, they all welcomed me with open arms, positive attitudes, and a sincere willingness to help through sharing their own experiences. We even managed to share some great tips about how our classrooms operate.

What’s incredible about this learning is we did not connect because it was mandated or required of us. We connected because we truly believe that sharing experiences, successes and “failures” in a risk free environment will not only benefit us as learners first, but our most precious commodity, the students. Self directed professional development at its finest.

Is connecting with others the magic bullet to solve our educational issues? Absolutely not.  But to deny the power of connecting with others around the world to learn and grow, is IMHO, doing yourself a disservice.  Through the use of archived chats via twitter or subscribing to your favorite blogs using an RSS feed, you can find the balance in your life needed to keep your eyes and ears on the pulse.  (Note to future self – Write blog post about finding balance)

 

Are we the crazy ones for believing that by participating in this “Not-so-quiet” revolution we will grow professionally? Are we the crazy ones who believe we can create a shift with how professionals learn? Are we the crazy ones who believe we can make a difference using social media tools at our disposal?

No. We are not the educators who believe we can. We are the educators who know we can!