Recently, I hosted a real time email conversation with the families of my students; only one parent participated. A second parent responded later on to say that she hadn’t been able to be present at the discussion and didn’t really have anything to contribute at the moment. A third parent had emailed me earlier saying she would not have internet access at that time. And, although we had a great discussion, I am left wondering at the low turnout given how comfortable it is to log in from the comfort of one’s own home or mobile device. And, because I know that in order to improve at anything it is important to reflect on one’s experiences, I have identified four reasons for why this may have happened. Although there may be other causes, these are ones that I will address the next time I plan a similar event.
First lesson learned: it took me several weeks to pull this session together. Did interest wane in the time it took to me to gauge parental interest and the actual discussion? Possibly. I had initially hoped to do an Elluminate session but when that looked like it wasn’t going to happen I decided to try an email conversation. I had personally experienced the power of reading and responding to posts in real time, so to speak, and was hoping that my students’ families would also find this form of interaction appealing. But, by this time in the year everyone is basically looking ahead towards summer.
Second lesson learned: a few parents responded that they were happy with their children’s progress and/or learning plans and so didn’t see the need to participate. This is actually the first time I’ve had this kind of response. And, although I was pleased to hear that parents were satisfied with what was happening in the classroom, I wondered at the idea that only parents who have concerns about their children see a need for attending a session with their child’s teacher. Although, I was hoping for a more general interest in literacy and child growth/development, maybe that is too much too expect. So, next time I will focus the sessions around specific questions rather than broad topics.
Third lesson learned: it may have been intimidating for parents to respond to each other on email rather than be on the receiving end of a workshop by their child’s teacher.
Fourth lesson learned: the conversation was on a Friday afternoon in early June. Need I say more?
Has anyone done anything similar to this? Does anyone have any ideas for a beginning of year topic? What are your thoughts about involving parents and families in the classroom using technology?
6 thoughts on “A Few Lessons Learned”
I have not done this kind of online conversation but I have found that parents tend to seek me out when there is a problem or concern far more often than when they are happy with their child's school experience. I do wish we could find a way to be in conversation with families on a regular basis. It would be quite a change for most educators to really share the classroom experience with families. Cheers to you for stepping out and trying this. Something to wonder about.
Yes, that is precisely the challenge: how to be in conversation with families on a regular basis about the classroom experience their child is having and how that connects, or not, to learning outside of school.
First of all..I just discovered your blog through Poetry Friday, and I am so glad I did! Getting parents involved these days is hard – unless there is a problem, in which case they are over involved. You were brave to try this…perhaps the midpoint of the year would be a better time? Perhaps having a focus: reading strategies? math games?
Thank you for “finding” me and posting a comment! I agree that having a focus would have been more effective. I am going to plan this more carefully next year and I will be posting about how it goes.
I think this is common. Sad, but predictable. Parents get upset and email. Parents are happy and they stay quiet, content. I also think some fear “rocking the boat.”
Yes, and that's why it's so important for teachers to take the first steps and listen to parents' concerns. It is only when we listen that we can learn how we might work together with families in a partnership. This is not easy as we have been conditioned as teachers to respond/react and talk to parents as if we are the only ones that have something worthwhile for them to learn. I think it's time we stayed quiet and listened more; teachers have a lot to learn from the parents of our students.