I’ve been teaching for over twenty years in different schools, different communities, but one factor transcends grades, classes, and culture: Parents want to be involved with what’s going on at their children’s school. Parent teacher communication is vital and in my experience, it is the number one predictor of success for a student. But parents can’t always get in to the classroom as a volunteer and see what’s written on the white board. They can’t always make the school meetings where the administrators educates parents on the comings and goings of the school. Why? It’s not lack of interest. More likely, they’re working; doing that 8-5 thing that insures the future of their families and pays for their children’s college education.
Knowing the importance of parent involvement, I feel that my job as a teacher includes not just the lessons I share with students but keeping my parents informed on classroom happenings. I need to be as transparent as possible, get as much information as I can out to parents in a manner they can understand and a format they can access. If I could tape my classes and post them on YouTube, or offer a live feed during class, I would. But I can’t, so I try other creative ideas.
I love twitter because they’re quick, 140 character summaries of activities, announcements, events. They take no time to read and are current.
I send lots of these out with reminders, updates, FAQs, discussion of issues that are confusing to parents. I often ask if I’m sending too many, but my parents insist they love them.
I’m available every day after school, without an appointment. Because I have so many other ways to stay in touch, my classroom rarely gets so crowded that I can’t deal with everyone on a personal level.
What impressed me the most was how intuitive it is for both teacher and parent to set up and use. There are help files, but for my demo purposes, I never had to go there. Everything that I needed showed up on each screen. I could dig deeper into topics with just a click or upload easily by following step-by-step instructions. In no time, I felt connected to the ‘class’. The only shortfall is the ads that accompany each page. Most websites allow an ad-free environment for a price, so I’ll bet the clever people who built this program have that figured out.
Other than that, Parenella is a great tool to build online school and class communities. It is a great service for parents and teachers.
She’s the author of the how-to book Building a Midshipman: How to Crack the USNA Application (available hard copy at Amazon.com and ebook at Scribd.com) and 55 Technology Projects for the Digital Classroom V. I and II. She won the Southern California Writers Conference Outstanding Fiction Award for her upcoming techno-thriller, To Hunt a Sub which reviewers laud as ‘strongly written’ with ‘interesting and unique plot hooks’. She’s currently working on a prehistoric character-driven novel, Born in a Treacherous Time (both excerpts available on Scribd.com). She lives in Laguna Hills CA with her husband, adult son and two beautiful Labradors. You can contact Jacqui at her publisher Structured Learning or on her blog at Ask a Tech Teacher.