By Jennifer Williams
Sharpening pencils to a perfect point. Checking the spelling of each student’s name to ensure every one is correct. Carefully coloring in the lines of a welcome sign to invite students to their new classroom; a classroom that for students will be a place all new where memories will be made, friendships developed, and life lessons learned. In these beginning weeks of the school year, teachers take care to consider small details; details that that when considered in sum create the experience of “school” in a child’s world. With intentional and thoughtful focus on the needs of each individual student, teachers set out to create a culture of their class. And, in the earliest hours of the first day of the new school year, teachers and students together begin to form the community of their classroom.
In recent days, though faced with the hustle and bustle of back-to-school, I was inspired to reflect on the impact of teaching small. A video launched with the Remind #teachsmall campaign truly demonstrated for me so beautifully the lasting effects of dedicating efforts to the little things when building a culture with students: http://bit.ly/teachsmall_blog Soon, I was considering how so many of today’s teachers are working to extend this community to include a critical member of the learning team: the parent! In small, yet meaningful ways, classroom teachers are beginning the year by fostering #teachsmall moments to welcome parents into the conversation of “school” and learning. Here are some ideas for finding ways to bring #teachsmall to the parents of your classroom.
Back-to-School “Parent-Led” Conferences
Often, first conversations with parents are procedural. Instead of waiting for back-to-school nights, start your relationship with your new parents during Week 1 by offering time to parents to schedule and join you for a 20-minute “Parent-Led Conference.” As opposed to traditional conferences where teachers lead the discussion, encourage parents to share any thoughts, dreams, and concerns for their child. Questions such as “What motivates your child?” and “How can I best support your child’s life passions?” can allow teachers to learn about children through the lens of a parent. More, it is a small way teachers can show that they sincerely care about the interests and needs of the family.
Learn the Names of Your Classroom Parents
A name is a special thing. Teachers understand the importance of referring to students by name and constantly seek out ways to showcase the names of students both in class discussions and also in the classroom environment. By taking time to learn and use parent names, teachers demonstrate that they are invested in parents and that they are treasured members of the classroom community.
Proclaim a Vision of “Parents as Partners”
“Parents as Partners.” Make it your parent/teacher motto. Brand it. Market it. And represent it. Sign messages and notes home as “Your School Partner.” Thank parents personally for their partnership each time you see them. Dedicate a bulletin board to parents and post announcements or exciting updates that are just for them! “Parents as Partners!” Simple, yet so significant!
Sharing of Stories
A common feature of a community is the sharing of stories. Celebrate cultures, interests, or unique talents of parents by inviting them to join for a class discussion. Interested parents that are unable to visit in person can join via videoconferencing with tools such as Skype or Google Hangout. Another idea: develop a Mystery Reader program; guest parents can surprise students and join to share their favorite read aloud story. Finally, consider organizing a parent/student/teacher book club to meet throughout the year. This can demonstrate the importance of reading together and sharing together.
Share Messages of Small Moments
Each day in a classroom is filled with special, small moments of greatness. Noticing that a student always stops to smell the flowers, witnessing a much needed learning breakthrough, seeing an apprehensive student bravely try something new for the first time. Teachers have front row seats for so many small, defining, "star of the show" moments such as these. Showcase, share the positive, and send a message to parents by using the Remind tool. “Just wanted to share…” messages can brighten days and help parents be a part of the community of a class. Because, as we all know, moments like these are too good not to share and celebrate!
As classroom communities of teachers, students, and parents embark on a new school year, we celebrate the moments that are small, yet defining and impactful. The difference-making little things that are extraordinary…and anything but ordinary.
Be sure to share your #teachsmall stories on Twitter and Facebook, and in your schools. To read more about this special initiative and Remind as a tool for connecting the community of your classroom, visit: http://bit.ly/teachsmall_blog.