Monday, August 24, 2015

Communicating with Parents, a #flipclass #Flashblog

In this weeks #flipclass chat we are discussing ways that we communicate with parents (in general, and specifically to do with our flipped classroom). Here are some things I do or have tried.

Since I started teaching 6 years ago I have given out an intro letter to my students to read themselves (and sign) and then for them to show to their parents to sign. It usually says a bit about ways to contact me and the communication/responsibility I expect of the students in terms of getting info home (this varies depending on the grade/level of the course). Since I started flipping I have modified this letter more and more to introduce the basics of the flipped class and to invite parents to an info night at the school where I will give them a run-down of what it is and they can ask questions.

Generally I get about 50% of parents saying they will attend and then 1/3 - 1/2 of those will actually show up a couple of weeks later (I am guessing because they have a better sense from their child about what is going on by then and no longer feel the need to come). It has been well received from those who do come, and the most common feedback last year was "It is clear that you care about our kids and that you are enthusiastic about this format...and that is all we can ask." Generally speaking, parents seem to respect us (usually I do this with a colleague) for what we are doing and just want to have a thorough understanding of the "new" method. [I also tried to use a google form that they could submit questions to in advance of the session but no one took advantage of it].

Through the letter and the info night I tend to get a good dialogue going with many parents and they seem to feel more comfortable approaching me later in the semester when they have concerns. This is extremely helpful as a high school teacher as it decreases the ones I have to worry about getting in touch with later (in most cases). I have  learned a lot in the past two years from the parents of my students as they have the home perspective of what the flipped class entails and it has given me a lot of insight as to what students need from me in order to be more successful. I especially appreciate the ones who take the time to come to see me in person and are clearly there to help their child and respectfully help me in the process.

My grade 9 (and I am considering for 10 as well this year) parents also get the opportunity to submit their email address to me to be a part of a mailing list for the class. I use this just to keep parents informed (and to adjust to having a child in high school since communication seems to be so different from what they are used to) about the class - what we are presently doing, what work I have returned recently, and what is coming up. This opens the door for communication from some of them who have concerns as they can hit reply to my email and ask me to call or ask a question. I have found this practice to be extremely helpful (mostly) and requires a bit of work up front to create a distribution list but then takes me 5-10 minutes every couple of weeks in the semester (meanwhile, cutting down on the phone calls I have to make).

I think the best part of this contact is that it forces these new high school students to recognize that their parents are going to find out anyway - so they may as well tell their parents themselves!

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