Obvious Entry of the Day: Get the Parents Involved

The buzz has abounded since my student-teaching term six years ago: get the parents involved, for they are one of your most important resources!  It’s so obvious and so widely distributed as advice goes, but the practice seems scattered.  Teachers and parents are still a shaky alliance in many cases, which has never quite made sense to me.  Aren’t we working toward the same goals and outcomes?  And, if not, shouldn’t we be talking about it?

Anyway, I can’t ignore the negative implications of leaving parents out of the loop when it comes to math class in general, much less when I’m working so fervently to integrate 21st century skills and technology into my lessons.  Most parents have a pretty good idea of where they would like to see their children in 10 years, and they all want to see success.  What many parents aren’t quite prepared for is the change that comes with raising a 21st century global citizen. Many parents will claim (with a side of humor) that they are technophobic and don’t understand half of what these kids are doing with their phones or computers or video games.  At the same time, mom and dad are communicating, checking bank accounts, making shopping lists, and playing Scramble on their smartphones.  So, really, they do understand technology and interact with it daily.  This is something we need to put to use to keep them connected with their children’s educational progress.

It’s getting easier every year.  So far, I have several parents connected to our classroom via text, email, and social media.  Many specialists hail the use of Twitter and Facebook as ways to keep parents in the loop.  I currently use Classpager to send reminders to parents and students via SMS, which is free (up to 25 students) and very easy to use.  My breakthrough this year is Schoology, which is going through a trial period with me and my students.  Similar to Facebook in appearance, it provides me with total control of the assignments, discussions, quizzes, and includes convenience features like Dropbox and Google Docs connections.  It also provides access to parents, where they can easily see the agenda and assignments the teacher posts, and how their child is performing on those assignments.

Parents want to know!  Parents want to be kept in the circle that is your classroom, and they need it to be as time-saving as possible.  Teachers are busy; parents are also busy.  Technology is giving us a real opportunity to build a strong alliance with the other most important people in our students’ lives.  I recently even had the PTO offer to pay for some of the subscription costs that may come up.  There is real opportunity here to change what is still considered by too many to be a necessary evil.  Let’s make it a necessary pleasure to work alongside our parents.  Technology brings them into our classroom every day!

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About Kris Nielsen
Kris L. Nielsen has been a middle grades educator and instructional leader for ten years in New Mexico, Oregon, and North Carolina. He is a graduate of Western Governors University’s Master of Science Education program, with emphasis on child development and instructional technology. Kris is an activist against corporate education reforms and has had his writing featured in several online magazines and blogs, including those of the Washington Post and Diane Ravitch. Kris currently lives in New Mexico with his young son and beautiful wife.

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