I CAN… Communicate Goals With Parents
One of my main goals this year is communicating with parents. I want them to know what we’re doing in music class and how that relates to district curriculum, local, state, and national standards. More importantly, I want parents to know what we’re doing in music class and how that’s helping their student to grow as an individual and as a music-maker!
I teach in an urban district and we battle with the usual inner-city problems of poverty, hunger, and communication issues among many, many others. However, I would say that we are doing a really good job as we attempt to communicate with parents. We’ve started using a new grading system/using new software where parents can go online any time and look at student grades, read comments from teachers, and find better detailed information about how their student is doing. We’ve also been good about including our district curriculum goals and hosting “curriculum nights” so that parents can see into our rooms and better understand what we teach and why. That said, technology doesn’t always work in the ways that you want it to and so parents don’t always have the 24/7 access to student grades/online resources. In fact, many of our families don’t have internet at home or can only access at nearby libraries or other public spaces.
Another way we’re attempting to communicate learning targets with parents is through our new modified grade card. We’ve updated our grade card to add comments and give a better/more accurate idea of what students are doing each quarter. Unfortunately a technology glitch has made last year’s music standards show on the card and not this year’s updated standards. This means that students are getting the right grades but what the parent thinks/reads that they’ve learned isn’t maybe what they’ve actually been learning… Sigh! It’s frustrating!
And let’s not even get into the language barrier and digital divide. If parents can access our online grade card (let’s assume that they do have internet at home) they may not be able to read or really understand it. We do our best to translate everything but when 40+ languages are spoken throughout the district it’s hard to make it understandable for everyone. I’m lucky that most of my students are bilingual and that other language is mostly Spanish. That way we can focus on translating into Spanish whereas other schools in my district have to accomodate for 3 or 4 other languages. Throughout this whole process, we really do try hard (both parents and teachers) to make our cares and concerns understood… but sometimes the language barrier can be really tough.
Notes to Parents – Communicating Our Daily Goals
As I sat and reflected (on a snow day… after having a lot of coffee), I thought that there were other things that I could do to try and communicate better with parents. I had been relying on the computer or the district to communicate learning goals. What I realized was that my best moments of communication are when I pass a parent in the hallway and talk about their student and experiences we’ve had in the classroom. Parents also “see into my classroom” as they look at the student work that I post in the hallway or see pictures of students singing/dancing/playing in class. I know that the message is making it when students get little notes from me from my mailbox (check out this post about how I send mail to kids!) and then take them home to show parents. The best moments are through those natural communications with parents. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands.
Two Different Ways to Use This I CAN Resource
I posted these statements in the hallways and in my classroom in both English and Spanish. Parents LOVE being able to read about what their students were doing in music class and I saw a huge increase of parents obviously chatting with their students (in either language) about the activities and learning in the music room. The real breakthrough came when I realized I could easily print the posters 4 to a page, one side English and one side Spanish, to send home with kids at the end of a unit. At regular intervals I could send home notes with all kids in the grade level that had a quick and easy statement like “I CAN sing by myself and with others.” I made sure that I included both English and Spanish so that all parents would understand. The response was overwhelmingly good. I also made sure to have these posters pre-printed and ready to hand out at Parents Teacher Conference and Open House days. Parents felt involved and included and students definitely internalized the learning as they were now being asked at home about what they were doing in music class.
This is a system that works well for me and has really helped with communication between our school and parents. What’s funny is that often my principal will see the printed notes in teacher mailboxes and stop me to ask about what we’re composing in 3rd grade or how we’re using instruments in 1st grade. She reads the notes and is curious about what’s going on in class. how fun is that!
If you’d like to learn more about this resource set and look a little closer at the statements that I’ve had translated you can do so by clicking this link. How do you use I CAN statements in your classroom? Are they just to teach your students or do you use them to communicate with parents as well? I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, and ideas. Share them below!