Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Student and Parent Communication: Beyond Grades

One of Oprah's defining moments occurred in the fourth grade when her teacher, Mrs. Duncan, told her how proud she was of Oprah’s hard work.  From that moment on, Oprah knew that if she worked hard and did well, people would remember and value her.
While we know that positive communication contributes to a child’s success, we sometimes forget what communication can look like beyond the gradebook; we sometimes forget how powerful (and life changing) a positive comment can be.

Schools and teachers implement a variety of strategies to recognize students for exhibiting characteristics that are valued in the school community.  A survey of BPS principals reveals various types of recognition strategies used within our district: many teachers and teams send out some type of “Great News” postcards; some schools issue certificates or “Brilliant Behavior” slips to students for positive actions and attitudes. Middle schools award student of the month status to students who exhibit positive leadership and who have contributed to their community and/or school.

Along with these strategies, teachers and principals at all levels are encouraged to call parents to share positive feedback about students.  In fact, making that call was a challenge issued by Superintendent Uselman at the beginning of the school year and again in the latest Intercom ( One parent spoke of getting a call about her child: “I was nervous at first and then surprised to hear from my child’s teacher.  The quick check-in that was made was just to say she liked having my child in her class.  Small thing but gave me something to mention to my child that connected both of us to school.”
Along with positive feedback about a child’s behavior, parents also want to know about the education and learning that is happening in the classroom. In order to address this need, at least one school in our district sends out weekly parent emails with information related to school procedures, standards-based education, goals and data, project-based learning, etc. “The topic changes each week based on feedback from parents and what questions they have about our school and how we operate.”

Within this same school, teachers also have a closed facebook page on which about 90% of teachers post weekly (if not daily); these posts include success stories of the day/week, instructional program information, videos of students showing evidence of learning, videos of students showing a math strategy so parents can use it to help at home. “The parent feedback has been over the top about communication.”

From weekly updates to those 1-1 conversations that uncover a specific incident revealing the character and academic strengths of a student, we can never underestimate the power of positive communication with parents and students.

Check out Tuesday’s Twitter posts regarding parent communication (archived to the right of this blog), and tell us about your strategies or experiences with parent and student communication by submitting a comment below.

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