Getting to Know You
To most effectively communicate with my parents, I start each August with an introductory letter making known my life story, my summer professional development and my latest vacation experience. In this letter, I set specific parameters regarding communication. I instruct parents that I expect to be able to rest and recharge, each night. Thus, I politely and gently remind the parents that a tired teacher is an ineffective teacher. For the most part, the parents are extremely respectful of my time and I rarely need to communicate with parents past 7:00 PM at any point in the school year. I inform parents that I check my emails three times each day and I make it a point to reply to all of my emails within three hours of receiving them in my inbox. I am dutiful in replying to my emails promptly. I have had many positive reactions regarding these habits. I make it a point, each year, to convey my professional mission statement in my yearly introductory letter, as well as my Parent Night handouts.
This year, I have significantly lessened the amount of emails that I send to my parents. This is a result of listening to the advice from last year’s set of parents. I had more than a few parents inform me that they are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of emails from HKIS. With this information, I have decided to email much less often. I only email my parents information that they cannot get from anyone else and information that I feel is essential to convey.
My thinking upon each communication with anyone is to first ask myself, “Is it kind, true, and necessary?” If my message does not meet these three criteria, I tend to keep my mouth shut or refrain from pressing send. I also remind myself that the person who is in front of me at any specific time is the most important person in my life, at that moment. I truly try to give each person my undivided attention. These habits were taught to me when I was a high school teacher intern. They have served me well throughout my career.
Each year, I ask my parents to give me a detailed and descriptive essay about their child. In this letter, I highlight the significance of balanced literacy and the value of promoting reading discussions in school and at home. This letter is traditionally a big hit with my parents. I find it to be an excellent approach to building trust.
I have visited students, upon parents’ request, at home when students are sick. I painstakingly host Writing Celebrations after each unit of study. I habitually do not send any report card comment nor email communication that could be construed as anything but constructive. I take it upon myself to inspire my students’ parents. I oftentimes include http://www.ted.com/talks with my email correspondence.
Vision Trumps Everything
My Keynote presentations never include slides that have more than forty characters. I have learned that the human brain generally ignores visuals with an excess of forty characters. I instead spend time searching for striking and engaging images, cartoons and photos to accompany my slides. Again, this is a result of my research on how the brain best acquires information. My presentations regularly include video or text that display exemplary learning habits. I obsessively use my iPhone camera and video camera to record exemplary evidence of thinking.
Tell a Story
I have studied the art of storytelling. I am emphatic in reading with expression and panache. I share my mobile number with my students and allow them to call me any time that they are having difficulty with homework. I respond to texts. I have used SKYPE to communicate with parents and students that are abroad. I ask for advice. I regularly share “best shots” from highlighted lessons. I share video evidence of student growth. I smile excessively and I take it upon myself to be present, humble, curious, honest, self-deprecating and empathetic.
I remain proud of my ability to mediate between parent, student and teacher without damaging my own reputation and foundation of trust.