A few weeks ago, I wrote about my professional goals for the upcoming year. Check it out here if you’re interested. The intention of the post was to hold me accountable for and focused on my own learning. Over the course of the year, I hope to update and track my growth in a series of posts in summative self-assessments where I can check my learning to date. I also hope that people will offer suggestions (descriptive feedback) that will push my thinking in a new direction or a higher standard (learning targets).
Moving to a new school, my first goal was to increase my transparency. I want to engage students, parents and staff in ongoing open dialogue by making myself as accessible as I possibly can. While still a work in progress (relationships take time after all), I have made some real progress. The first thing I did was make public all of my contact information – email, cell number, twitter handle etc. In the past, I have held some of it back preferring to contact people via office phone or email. It’s a small step, but meaningful.
As educators, we often talk about the need to engage parents. We know how important their involvement is, but often it is hard. This summer Chirs Wejr (@MrWejr) wrote a brilliant post about using Facebook as a tool to communicate with your school community. I loved the post, but was afraid of totally opening up. What if something inappropriate was posted? I thought a lot about it, but finally took the plunge and created a page that was wide open. Initially, I sent the link to our PAC and asked them to share it with other parents they knew. That is where the beauty of Social Media kicked in. By the second day of school we had over 50 parents liking our page. As of today, the end of the first week of school, we have over 100. Not only that, but I have already engaged in conversations with parents clarifying questions about start-up. We’ve even had parents posting on our wall about how great our teachers are. Teachers are also liking the page and I am getting great feedback from them as well. After only one week, I can see the potential to engage the community.
Will there be negative posts at some point, probably, but it won’t be the end of the world. I think the more positive interactions we build upon, the less likely people are to “rant”. It is more likely that they will come in and discuss concerns if they feel like they already have a connection. When I was a classroom teacher I sent out updates to parents every Monday via email. Often it began a discussion and parents were so happy to know what was going on at school. The foundation of a relationship was beginning. If/when I had to have a difficult conversation it was easier and they were more receptive because there had already been on ongoing dialogue.
More than anything, to engage people in communication, we need to meet them where they are at. Getting in contact with people on the phone is almost impossible, Twitter is still emerging, email is too cumbersome, but almost every parent has a Facebook account, so getting information out there and staring those important conversations has never been easier. Chris, thanks for inspiring me to take the plunge!