Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Engaging parents who distrust the system


My new school year's resolution is to do better with reaching out to parents, especially ones who distrust the school system.

Many of my parents are easy to reach, communicate regularly by note or telephone, and come in for conferences when needed. But every year I have a handful parents who avoid my calls like I'm trying to collect the cable bill.

Last year I had a student who struggled academically all year long. Requests for parent conferences went unanswered. Phone calls were hit or miss. Toward the end of the year we mailed a "in danger of retention" letter and shortly after that, the father popped in unannounced for a conference.

I'm the type of teacher who always takes pop ins. This one coincided with my lunch and I asked the dad if he minded me eating a grilled cheese while we chatted (he didn't).

We had a fantastic conversation about ways he could help his son, I gave him resources to pursue and by the end of the meeting, a visible wave of relief had washed over his face. He apologized for not coming in sooner and told me I was "way cooler" than he expected (thanks?!). Clearly, this man no longer found me intimidating (but talking to someone with sandwich crumbs on her blouse has that effect).

The best part of the story is all the things we talked about in the conference stuck in a way things we discussed by phone during the year hadn't. I saw a measurable improvement in my student during final months of school and I couldn't help thinking if I had just gotten his family to trust me at the beginning, how much more we could have accomplished.

I guess teaching means starting over every year to earn the trust of 30 brand new families. Sure, life would be easy if I could just wave a parent partnership wand and create instant connections. But while I'm waiting for one of those snazzy devices to be developed, I'll keep looking for new ways to break the ice and build a rapport with parents who don't automatically assume I have their kid's best interests at heart.

Here's one small step (of many) I'm taking in that direction:
 

I found this idea on Pinterest. I plan to hand out door prizes the first day of school. I often see several parents on the first day who don't come back during the school year.

This September, every parent who pops in on the first day will receive a bag of microwave popcorn with this message attached: "Thank you for popping in! Please pop in again!" I'm also passing out fridge magnets with my name and contact information (which I got from Vistaprint). 



I designed the popcorn bag stickers to fit the Avery 2x4" shipping labels, and you can download the file for FREE at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

What's one small thing you do build trust and rapport with parents?

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Moving in to my new classroom

My school was recently renovated and this summer we're moving in to our brand new building. I was able to pop into my room and take a few "before" pictures. In the 17 years I've worked in this city, this will be the prettiest classroom I've ever taught in.

I'm especially excited about the brand spanking new smart board in the front of the room. My only concern is I don't know how to use it and with one month left until school starts, there has been no mention of a training. History has shown technology inservices in this district are often sporadic and overdue.  So cross your fingers for me friends. I would love to be able to plug in this puppy and get right to work on the first day!





(I didn't really attach floral stickers to all my boxes, that's just a little photo editing to cover my name and school number).





 
I decided a bee theme would be the perfect match for the yellow and grey colors so I purchased Schoolgirl Style's Happy Honeybee collection


 
Stay tuned, because I'll post my classroom "after" pictures in September. 


....And the winner is:

Thanks to everyone who entered my Donors Choose giveaway.  I've randomly picked the winner and the project receiving a donation from me today is...

Mr. Quall's project, "Distinguished Gentleman Blaze Through Reading With Style"  This is one of the coolest Donors Choose projects I've read in a while, so I highly encourage you to check it out and see if you can throw a dollar or two (or twenty) his way.  

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

That weeping and gnashing of teeth you just heard...

...was me turning 40.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Great Ant Debacle of 2012?!

source
I have ambitious plans this September to supplement the Ants story from our Harcourt Trophies anthology with a mini science unit on the little buggers.  But if I'm going to be completely honest here, I'll have to admit I'm having some reservations.

This could very well turn into the Great Ant Debacle of 2012.  I've never used an ant farm before and I'm not quite sure how they expect me to get a hundred or so ants between the two sheets of plastic.

While some teachers of the crunchy variety might enjoy getting out in nature and actually collecting their ants themselves, perhaps luring them with little ant snacks, there are others- and I'm not naming any names here- who'd rather spend that time on the Internet googling ant farms with the ants already enclosed (no such thing, in case you're wondering).

This city girl's plan is to buy the farm and the ants online and convince a less bug phobic colleague to set it up for me. Then the fun starts.  I'll make these adorable brown bag flip books with the kiddos.  Each day, there will be a 15-20 minute lab activity which will require them press their noses up to the farm and observe what's happening. 


I listed the Brown Bag Flip Book packet in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  In addition to the five lab activities, it includes a grading rubric, and also a blank ant themed page for you to use as needed. 

If you end up using it, be sure to write and let me know how it went.  (But I'm not liable if you find yourself in the middle of a Great Ant Debacle with those suckers crawling all over your plan book).
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Friday, July 13, 2012

Just call me Alice...

...or "How I went from browsing to blogging in just six days." 

I felt a lot like Alice this week falling down the rabbit hole.  Here's the story:

First some background:

I'm spending my summer vacation mapping out my school year in preparation for September (it's actually more fun than it sounds).  One of my goals is to find more time for science and social studies.  Reading and math are the main events in first grade and everything else becomes secondary, even more so now that we're moving toward the new Common Core Standards.

So the easiest way to infuse more science and social studies into the curriculum is to capitalize on the stories in our reading series, Harcourt Trophies.  With titles like Ants, Fish are Fish, and Busy Buzzy Bees, it's clear I'll be spending a lot of time on living things. 

One thing led to another:
source

On Sunday, I scoured the Internet for a science journal my firsties could use to observe the ant farm and betta fish I'll bring to school.

On Monday, I gave up and made science journals for ants and betta fish myself.

On Tuesday, I created a seller's account on Teachers Pay Teachers. (I'd just spent 24 and a half hours wrangling with text boxes, why not make a few bucks, right?).

On Wednesday, I decided my first science journals sucked and learned how to make the cute kind people might actually buy (this took another 24 and a half hours).

On Thursday, I discovered people who sell those really cute products on Teachers Pay Teachers usually have really cute blogs to promote them (Hello Designer Blogs, my name is Alice).   

On Friday, I learned that if you build it, they won't necessarily come- not without some sort of incentive to get them there. Which leads me to....

The Giveaway:




I'm giving away a $5 donation to one follower's Donors Choose project, and I'll be sure to use any match codes that are available.  To enter, you must follow my blog with Google Friend Connect (the blue button on the right).  Then, leave a comment with your Donors Choose link and your email address. 

For an extra entry, you can also follow my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Please leave a separate comment for your extra entry, again with a link to your Donors Choose project. And yeah, I realize I haven't actually uploaded any cute products into my TPT store (that's tomorrow's learning curve), but think of it as getting in on the ground floor- this way, you won't miss anything! 

I'll use Random.org to pick a winner August 1st.

In the meantime, be sure to check back often!  I'm blogging about those cute science journals I made next.

P.S.


My name isn't really Alice, and as of today I have no plans to reveal it.  But like everything else, that decision is subject to change in the next 24 and a half hours.




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