It's that time of the year when my mind is in my classroom quite often and I'm at my computer preparing for the upcoming school year. I'm in the midst of learning a new curriculum for a new position, which I'm really excited for. In saying that I need to reevaluate how I "share the learning" with families as to what's happening in our classroom.
In the past, I've used a variety of tools and techniques to attempt opening a window into my classroom, from the traditional newsletter, too blogging, to my YouTube channel. Each year modifying, dropping or adding a tool to meet the students and families where they're at as they consume the information I'm sharing. It's very unrealistic to keep doing it the same way as I've done it for the past five and ten years.
What I've learned is parents love to hear and see what's happening in my classroom with their child. It doesn't matter what the tool is as much as the experience. Giving parents a window into our classrooms opens the communication lines at home to an otherwise answer to “school was just fine today”, by their child.
My informal poll from last year started at our spring parent-teacher conference. I had families representing over 30 students come to speak with me. Three-quarters of those families went out of their way to thank me for creating my YouTube channel and sharing what we were doing in my classroom. Fast forward we had two more field trips with parent volunteers after those spring conferences. 100% of those parent volunteers knew my school YouTube channel and also thanked me for doing that.
Teachers are doing some really amazing things in the classroom. So many effective teachers feel like they're boasting if they share these experiences beyond the four walls of learning. That was the way it used to be but things have changed. Teachers need to market the student growth that is happening and build a stronger triangle of learning, students, families and teachers.
With that in mind, I plan on being much more proactive in how I share with families because I’ve seen how important such communications are. Especially this year with over 225 students each semester coming into my classroom. That does seem a bit overwhelming yet worth every minute of energy put into sharing our classroom journey.
I plan on sharing the tools as I use them during the course of the year and hopefully some feedback as to how families are consuming them. From one way posts to interactive tools and of course video. Before selecting the tool, it's time to think about how my audience is going to be consuming my updates.
This entry has been testing my writing skills for some time. I’m troubled by how many use social media to speak “At Each Other”, instead of “WITH Each Other”. This has become a common practice, from our country’s leaders (both parties) to those that report the news and celebs from all walks of life. It is very easy to send one’s chest pounding feelings over twitter other such means.
As a lifelong learner and educator, this has brought me to some inner wrestling of emotions. My parents and grandparents taught me to be a good listener. Whether they knew it or not, they were teaching me the art of caring empathy. My grandfather’s quote always made me pause before talking: “No one will know how smart or dumb you are until you open your mouth”. I guess that works with social media too.
It is easy to go down that rabbit hole of criticism and judgment. People somehow feel smarter when being negative, throwing shade on others. Regardless of your political views, there's plenty to be frustrated with our leaders currently. Beyond listening, there is a missing element of asking WHY one feels that way.
So I'm personally choosing the path of going back to listening and speaking WITH empathy. How's that going? Well, it's early, yet refreshing. To share the power of the entire conversation is a challenge. I must throttle back on jumping in with my two cents worth, to better understand what is being said. It is a journey to speak with empathy.
There have been a couple of encounters with people that I care dearly about, who have polar opposite views. Previously I would avoid those views like a plague with those who in the far side of their beliefs. That is definitely not speaking WITH someone. The value of knowing that no one is trying to change others views, but asking WHY with empathy. Speaking at someone takes on a bit of a mob mentality, that most would never endorse.
I truly believe most people in our country will help others in need. Be it face-to-face or other means, regardless of their political views. We all need to cherish this caring skill. Human nature generally wants to see the good in people. Listening with empathy is definitely helping others.
As frustrated as I am with those that loudly speak hurtfully at others, I can do nothing about it. However, I can be a better listener, as I speak WITH my family, friends, students, colleagues or anyone. As we do a better job speaking with each other, maybe others will do the same. Pause before you speak or post.