|Image credit: maryloukayser.com|
These were the words expressed last night.
Last night, we held our 18th Home & School 2.0 Meeting in a row. For the past 2+ school years, we’ve been live-streaming these monthly meetings to differentiate for the needs of our families, and provide opportunities for teachers to join us for portions of these meetings. The full Home & School 2.0 post is here.
Last night’s meeting lasted about 50 minutes, and was done by 7:50PM. (We always aim for a 60 minute meeting to encourage more participation and attendance). We said goodbye to those tuning in from home, and closed down the technology. Next we began talking about a new version of our “Knapp App” and what it could add to our current family engagement efforts. We had to take a vote since it would cost some money for the new version.
That’s when it happened. One of our parents said something to the effect of, “Guys I have to say this. I’m so overwhelmed with technology that I’ve shut down. I don’t know what I must use versus what the school would like me to use in regards to connecting using technology.”
For the 15 of us sitting around the room, it was a new opportunity to talk openly and informally about the current state of eFACE (electronic Family And Community Engagement) strategies in place at Knapp. Other parents followed and spoke up as well, expressing multiple perspectives…
- “I just need to know where the school wants me to prioritize my time.”
- “I love the cutting edge technologies being used at Knapp.”
- “I would have never known about Twitter if it wasn’t for the trainings last year.”
The purpose of writing this post is to reflect upon what we set out to do as home and school groups in engaging every family. I’ve detailed our immediate response, as well as some next steps below.
After parents around the room had the opportunity to express their feelings on the matter, I had the chance to re-clarify the purpose of our eFACE strategies.
My Response: I shared my appreciation for the trust displayed in the room in bringing the issue to the table. It was truly an opportunity to grow and revisit our purpose. I also articulated that we do have many ways that we provide access for families in terms of eFACE. However, our efforts are aimed to be a “menu” of opportunities for families to take advantage of. As a school, we are well aware that every family has different needs, just like every child needs something different in the classroom from their teacher(s). In no way do we expect our parents to use the “Knapp App,” Zippslip, tweet, email, Google Text us, be on Edmodo, the Family Engagement Wiki and so on. We try to provide a comprehensive approach to engaging families, and we do the same for those not on computers by providing hard copies of our communications in a timely fashion.
Next Steps: I’m wondering how others in my PLN would have responded in this situation. After further thought and reflection, I’m destined to find answers to the following questions…Exactly how many parents are at home feeling the same way as the parent who bravely expressed herself last night? What survey opportunity might give us an opportunity to fig further into this? How might I adapt my communications to better express our eFACE efforts to parents? What trainings should be calendared to speak to the needs of our families in terms of using technology? How can I adapt my 10/3 Back to School Night speech to articulate this menu of eFACE efforts available?
As educators, we must harness these opportunities when they arise. It gives us a chance to get better, revisit our vision, our approach and allows the two-way communication between home and school we know is vital to the success of our students. I feel that as a home-school team, we grew last night. Now, can move forward to include this perspective in future efforts to bridge the gap between home and school.
The day we feel like we’re doing everything just right for all of our students, parents and teachers is the day we might be start looking for another career. We must never stop growing or re-evaluating our practice. There are no magic bullets or one-size-fits-most/all approaches. Meeting the needs of students and families is about ongoing formative assessment in all areas. These assessments must come from every perspective that has an impact on the child including the student, his/her parents, teachers, leaders and others. Everyone has at least one puzzle piece – and they all need to know their pieces are vital.
I welcome your thoughts and comments below in helping us grow.