Teachers Could Do Even Better if Parents Took Online Communication Seriously
Being a teacher has never been easy, and in today’s over-crowded, under-funded public school system, earnestly shepherding the academic development of a group of 25-35 young children is nearly impossible. Nonetheless, all across the country, millions of teachers attempt to do just that every day. At EmbraceLife.tech, we honor the inspiring teachers in our communities for all that they do. So many of them chose their professional path out of a sincere desire to bless and lift our kids. And so many of them are exceptionally effective at doing it despite the day-to-day challenges they face.
As parents, we also give a lot to ensure that our kids receive a good education, though, if you’re like me, you may sometimes feel that what happens at school and at home are a little more fractured than you would like. The funny thing is that if I look closely at the realities of my own situation, I see that, generally, I’m not very effectively taking advantage of the tools already at my disposal. Now, I’m not talking about the homework we don’t always get done, or the extra-curricular experiences we choose not to participate in, or even the various online tools the school has made available to us that we don’t actually use. No, I’m referring to something much simpler. Right now, I’m not drawing on the power that the device in my pocket has to help me get fully hooked in to what’s happening between my child and his teacher at school. And the odds are pretty good that my kid’s teachers wish I would start.
With that in mind, here are three simple ways that you can use your phone or computer to engage with your child’s teacher and thereby significantly improve his or her ability to do great work for you and your family.
1. Take every digital communication from your child’s teacher seriously.
If you’re like me, you’re probably receiving regular updates from your kid’s teacher via some kind of digital communication tool. In our family, we have one child whose teacher communicates via a weekly email to parents in the class, another who uses Class Dojo (one of several popular parent/teacher communication apps), and another who reaches out by text. We have a fountain of knowledge about what’s happening with our kids at school right in our pockets. The trouble is that we don’t always pay close attention to these vital communications. What I’m proposing for myself and for you is that we improve how we regard these messages. Instead of letting them sit unread in our inboxes or just lightly skimming their contents, what if we made it a point to carefully read the information provided and engage in dialogue with our kids about it? This simple change could mean a fundamental shift in classroom learning. Just by picking up the breadcrumbs already being offered to us and building on them, we could significantly improve the outcomes are kids are achieving at school.
2. Consider reaching out to your child’s teacher through digital means instead of calling or connecting face to face.
Let’s face it. Teachers are overwhelmed. Most of them have too many students, too little time, too much curriculum, and too few resources to really teach in a meaningful way. Traditionally, when we were growing up, if our parents had a question or concern to address with the teacher, that usually meant a visit to the classroom or, at the very least, a phone call. Today, we have so many other ways to communicate – ways that can preserve a teacher’s time, energy, and focus. Now, of course, some issues need to be dealt with face to face or by phone, but so many of our simple, day to day questions could be addressed by shooting off a quick email, text, or other message that the teacher can respond to on his or her timeframe, whenever the right moment presents itself. This simple act preserves a teacher’s ability to structure their own time and preserve their focus to do the right things at the right moments. Most teachers deeply desire to connect with the parents of their students, so any outreach is appreciated. But, where possible, allowing teachers the space to interact on their terms can create a positive parent/teacher synergy. In this way, technology can allow us to do better than our predecessors did.
3. Occasionally, send your child’s teacher a quick note of gratitude by email, text, or instant message. Recently, after an elementary school administrator sent out a safety-related reminder to parents, one father I know replied to the message with this simple note: “You’re a great principal, Mr. Johnson (name altered). We’re all grateful for you and your good influence in our kids’ lives. Thanks for this great information.” Mr. Johnson replied almost immediately, “Thanks for the timely, kind words. They are much appreciated today :o)” From this simple interchange we can take the gentle reminder that, at the very core, our educators are people just like you and me. They have lives, and feelings; hopes, and dreams. Sometimes they are strong like all of us, but sometimes, they are also fragile, living day to day (and, often, dollar to dollar).
If you want your child’s teacher to perform their best for your kid, make it a habit to regularly send a simple note of gratitude to him or her. Digital technology has made this task so simple and quick that it can be accomplished with very minimal time and effort. The result, however, can be life-changing. Right now, while you’re reading this, go to your calendar, and set a monthly reminder to dash off a quick note to your children’s teachers. Even two or three lines could be enough to fundamentally alter the way he or she feels and engages with your child and the many others in their classroom. Of all the suggestions in this article, this one may be the most important, effective, and far-reaching. This principle applies to all of our interactions with everyone we know and care about. Technology makes forging meaningful, heartfelt connections simple and fast. We have no excuse for not lifting others when that precious act is only a text message away.
We all want a great education for our kids. To a large degree, we depend on teachers to make that dream a reality. The devices in our hands and our pockets can do a lot to lift them and to help them know that we are, in fact, with them. We’re on their team. We believe in them, and we are committed to doing what it takes to support them in preparing a generation ready to tackle the future with skill and promise.