As posted yesterday, this week’s UKedchat looked at ways to engage with parents. The discussion was even better than expected with loads of people joining in to share their ideas, concerns and strategies with the masses. We even extended the discussion by 15minutes to cram it all in. Thanks to everyone that participated.
The archive is available here: http://ukedchat.wikispaces.com/ukedchatArchive so I will let you have a look through in detail if you wish, but I want to summarise some of the things that I picked out. Lots of ideas were repeated by different sources, so I will not try and quote everyone, I’ve just spent almost two hours going through the archive for the evaluation as it is! So…what came out of the discussion?
There seem to be a number of different elements to the discussion, these being workshops, communication and sharing learning.
Workshops tended to be literacy, numeracy or ICT related. Generally we are trying to tell the parents something about a new strategy in school. Timings are an issue, do you run these sessions before school? during school? after school? evenings? The issue with doing it in school time is that of teachers. How would they be released from class to present or talk to parents? If after school, how do you deal with the issue of toddlers and babies? Can you have a creche? I liked the idea of running parents evenings while the school disco is on, this means parents are already child-less for a couple of hours so babysitting isn’t an issue! However people reported a better turnout when children came along to the sessions with their parents, so maybe that is the answer?
I remember at my old school, we drew a grid one parents evening. Along the grid were times (9-12, 12-3, 3-4, 4-6, 6-8) and down the grid were days. We asked parents to put a tick in boxes that would be good times for them to attend workshop sessions. After 40+ ticks, every box had something in it. Not helpful at all. One person suggested an issue with the name workshop while another called them BOATS (bring our adults to school). I don’t think the name is a problem, trying to get parents into school is! Can you bribe them with food and/or drink? or prizes as suggested by one person! Someone else suggested that if you make the topic exciting for the children, they will bring the parents in for you.
So once you’ve got them into school, what do you do with them? Who runs the session? Is it run by the head? The Numeracy/ICT leader? or children? Can you involve children to make it feel less threatening?
What about those that didn’t turn up? Videoing the session seems to be ok, then putting it online for parents to watch later. Will anyone bother?
Sharling children’s learning was another major area. Some people raved about the use of blogs and VLEs while others were worried about privacy and/or other teachers’ lack of interest. This can be an issue and it will take a good leadership team to see the benefit of online learning to ensure it is a whole-school approach.
Reports were mentioned. Who do we do them for? The parents in the chat last night said they generally skip to the general comment. So if we spend ages writing them (and hate it) and they don’t read them, who are they for? That’s a discussion for another time but people were willing to talk about video or audio reports as well as presentations and ebook style portfolios to store learning. Are these discussions happening with head teachers too? I love the idea!
Do you have parents in to help in school? Do they come in and read with children or do they share their expertise? How do you go about finding their expertise in the first place? It’s great to get them involved though.
Would you film your lessons? Someone suggested streaming it live. I think I’d prefer it recorded so I could choose to upload or not depending on how it went. Not that I’d only want to share perfect lessons (if they exist) but just in case something happened and you were streaming live via your blog or VLE!Photo permissions were mentioned, some guidance is here
Communication is also an interesting area for parents. Some parents complained that communication is a one-way forum. The home-school agreement is something the school dictates and they have no say over. Surely they should help write it or at least be consulted on it? I know not everyone uses it, but to reach the top levels of ICT Mark, parents and the whole school community must be consulted on policies and such-like. Does your school do that? Someone suggested yesterday that we shouldn’t ask them as they wouldn’t be able to help anyway. In my school I will be suggesting we write it, but ask for their opinions and views before finalising it. The final copy will also be shared online.
How else do you communicate with parents? Email? SMS? Website etc? It can be tricky to manage it all. One thing we are doing in our school is that news will go online. I will then post this once on to our VLE which will send it via RSS to our Twitter feed and to our website. I want as many examples of post-once read-everywhere as I can. Our blogs will be similar. Once writte, they will automatically post to Twitter, our VLE and our website. Saves me a lot of work! To see it set-up, but not really in use yet, visit our website: http://stjohnthebaptistprimary.co.uk/ You’ll see our tweets and blogs coming together.
There was also a clear primary/secondary divide where primary teachers have face-to-face time but secondary teachers rarely see the parents of their children. So that is something else to consider, how can they manage it?
What will I take from last night’s chat? Lots. As the new teacher and PPA, it is hard for me to have much influence in school but then I am the one that is changing a lot of the ICT. I will be around after school everyday top ensure that parents can have their questions answered about the VLE, Cloud computing, E-safety or whatever. I want to help them and I want to listen to them. I will also be involving the governing body and the PTA from a very early stage.
We intend to have parent workshops at various times and these sessions will be recorded and posted online. As mentioned earlier, news and learning will be shared on the web too.
All ICT policies and plans will be shared with parents for discussion and for viewing on the website, hopefully this will extend to other policies as we move forward.
I am also looking forward to the little things such as getting parents in to work with their class while we teach ICT. We’ve just bought 34netbooks and some parents may be curious. I’d love to get them in to a lesson to work with their child. I will definitely be planning for this in future. I would also like a parent-child drop-in ICT club. Not necessarily with a focus, but with the opportunity for children to share with their parents while having teachers on-hand to assist if needed.
There were so many fab ideas last night from BBQs to Picnics to ‘Boys night’ where dads and boys came to learn about literacy but girls weren’t invited. Ukedchat really showed its potential yesterday and I am honoured to be a part of it, there are so many fantastic teachers out there with so many fantastic ideas. Let’s go and do it. Let’s go and change some things in our school and then let’s share how we got on. I can’t wait!
Just an aside – as we finished, someone asked if there was a network of parents somewhere discussing how they can engage with teachers…how would their conversation go?
Other blog posts from last night’s chat:
@colport – http://bit.ly/b2GoRL
@joannec23 – http://bit.ly/ad8KF5
@tonycassidy – http://tinyurl.com/3ylr9tw
@theheadsoffice – http://bit.ly/dt7fFL