Recently there has been a lot of discussion around the need for teachers to continue their learning. This means being aware of current practices and participating in appropriate in-service (or other) training. It also means staying informed about new technologies that can be used as learning tools. I don’t think there are many teachers who would disagree (??). This week we’ve made some changes to our class website, and the way we communicate with families, that also make use of new technologies.
As a teacher, I find communicating effectively with parents to be one of the most difficult parts of the job. In many families, both parents work full time and are not home during school hours. Families live busy lives and finding time to have the conversations that are needed can be difficult. Throughout the year, I’ve battled through leaving messages on answering machines and sending notes home for parents to call me at school. I know this is the way it’s always been done... but it doesn’t work. I’ve tried using email where it’s available, but the reality is that most of my parents don’t check their email often enough for this to be effective. It’s for these reasons that I have decided to trial these changes:
Twitter is a great tool for quick communication, but it’s not something that enough parents access to make it a worthwhile tool on it’s own. For this reason, I have decided to try using Twitter in conjunction with our class blog. I’ve added a Twitter Feed to the sidebar on our class blog. This gives me an ‘easy update’ option that I can use from my mobile phone, and that all parents can access. The problem here, is that parents don’t access the website regularly enough to get all updates in time. I hope, that in time, this will become something that parents check more often.
Recently, we have had a lot of class commitments that have happened after normal school hours. The only way to manage this in a safe way, has been to make my mobile phone number available to parents. This has made life so much easier for me (and families) as far as communication goes. I have had some phone calls that were not related to the after hours events, but to me, this is a good thing. I’d rather get a phone call to clear up any confusion than have students worrying until the next school day. Other teachers have expressed concern that I won’t be able to ‘switch off’ from the job or that I may be opening myself up to abusive calls. I refuse to get worried about things that ‘might’ (or might not) happen, and as far as ‘switching off’.. I’m more than capable of NOT answering a call that comes in.
This is the one that has people flustered, and I find this a little strange. Speaking with my students, I have found out that 24 our of my 29 families have a parent that uses facebook. 20 of these check their facebook at least once a day. I decided that I would use this make communication more effective. I’ve created a facebook account that is purely for communicating with parents. It is not accessed by students, it is not used to play facebook games, or to join ‘mob wars’ or for ANYTHING except for communication. It really is the modern day version of an email account. The bonus over email, is that it is accessed MUCH more regularly. This has already proven very successful.
In a conversation the other day, I heard an idea shot down because it was said “we’ve never done that here”, and how many times have we all heard “we’ve ALWAYS done it like this” ? These are dangerous words. If we followed these rules, where would we be?