Why am I emailing parents all the time?

I don’t think parents want to know nearly as much as we seem to think they want to know.  Parents claim they want to know everything happening in their child’s school day, and we try to make that happen.  We post our curriculum so parents can see it; we post our weekly lesson plans so parents can see exactly what we are teaching their children.  We post grades in real time so parents can see exactly what is completed and how their children did on it.  Many of my colleagues are constantly sending email updates to their students’ parents.  One of my colleagues even makes this a weekly routine.

And yet, I would bet most (and by most, I mean an extremely high percentage) parents barely even look at any of this.  Maybe it’s cynical of me, but in my experience most parents become interested when their child is doing poorly or something goes wrong.  Do we really believe many parents are carefully reading our class policies when we make them sign it?  Think about it.  A parent with 2 kids in high school would have about 15 different sets of policies to read if we all did this.  My son’s kindergarten teacher kept a blog last year updating parents on what is happening in class.  To be honest, I looked at it maybe 4 times all year.

This is all to say, we bend over backwards to inform parents, but it isn’t really worth all the effort.  Please know that I think the home-school connection is vital; I just don’t think we are going about it the right way.  I don’t have the answer, but I’m trying something new with my summer school students.  I haven’t decided if it works quite yet, though.

Instead of emailing their parents myself, I made my students email their own parents and CC me on it.  The summer session is only 3 weeks long, so on Friday of each week, students have to email their parents telling them what they did this week, any grades they got, and upcoming due dates.   This keeps parents posted, forces communication between the student and his/her parents, makes the practice writing a bit, and saves me the time.

Does it work?  I don’t know yet.  A few students are super resistant to it.  I’m pretty sure one of my students doesn’t actually email his parents-just some sort of dummy account.  Students don’t know how to write appropriate and effective emails either.  In fairness, this is a skill I should probably be teaching them, but summer school doesn’t allow enough time for that really.

I’ll obviously contact parents if I have concerns as the summer session rounds out, but I like the premise of having students send the email instead of me.  I think this is an idea I’ll toy with a bit more during the actual school year.

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A reflection on 2016-2017

I’ve been out of school for a couple of weeks now and am currently immersed in teaching summer school.  I’ve had a few nice relaxing weeks away before coming back for summer school, and I feel pretty refreshed.  I took a break from all school related matters including this blog because I think that break is important.  But now that I’ve had that break I want to take a moment to reflect a bit on this past school year.

I’m not going to lie-this was a rough year.  I walked into the school year with a goal of remaining positive and optimistic, but that proved difficult for me.  I came into the year fresh off of a couple of difficult rejections for jobs that I thought I had a really good chance at.  The reality was that I was demoralized to start the year, and as the year progressed I faced more rejection over and over again as I went to interviews, got close to getting the job, only to be told they chose the other guy.

This is of course on top of the regular day to day stress of teaching, which seemed heavier to me this year.  I tried new approaches and didn’t see the results I was hoping for.  I felt I was constantly at odds with my supervisors.  I felt I was spinning my wheels for much of the year with little to show for it.

Needless to say, I needed a win.  The end of the school year gave that to me, and I walked away feeling good.  Still needing a break, but feeling good.

I got that win in the form of T-shirts.  Let me explain.  I have a reputation as a demanding teacher.  I assign quite a bit of work, and have high expectations as to what earns an A.  Naturally this stresses out some of my students.  As one of my senior classes was taking their final, as the end of the period approached, they all stood up, took off their jackets/sweatshirts and revealed the same T-shirt:

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That absolutely made my day!  The fact that the entire class would come together to make matching T-shirts is incredible.

Even better is that the following week on the last day of class for my juniors, in one class, when the bell rang none of my students were there.  Then they came parading in all wearing a shirt that they had designed.  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture, but it was a big picture of my face (yikes!) and it read “Stress. Free. Zone.” underneath as the ongoing joke in the class is that my class is a “stress free zone.”  It is impossible for me to do it justice in such few words.

Two separate classes came together to commemorate our class through T-shirts for the whole class.  I needed a win this year, and I got it right at the end.