Tag Archives: parent engagement

New Beginnings….

As summer starts to fade away I am thinking about another wonderful year inside/outside of Kindergarten.  What will it be like? How will I connect and engage alongside my students and families?  What do I need to do and how will I be inviting others to engage in the learning that is happening? How will I accomplish all of my goals? student goals? parent goals? So I have decided to just breath……

I have to admit that I do some of my best thinking when I am walking or swimming.  I always wonder about the connection with exercise and fresh air, so important!

Anyway like many of you I am about to begin a new year.  I am so excited and of course my lists seem to be never ending, but I have decided to share a bit about some of the ways I connect with my students and their families before we meet.  The relationships that we build are very important because this is where we are able to develop ways to have conversations, engage in meaningful collaborations and connect.  This is the heart of our work, our students and their families. They matter!

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Last week I offered families opportunities to stop by while I was setting up Kindergarten.  This was so successful.  Not only do I get to say hello and reconnect with former families, but I also get to meet new people as well. Right away children engage with what interests them. Also former students are great helpers too because they have a sense of some of the things that need to get done and are very welcoming in helping others.

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Right away friendships are formed and the children begin to explore materials and their new learning environment while also helping create places for learning.

I always find that parents want to be involved and connected.  I think it is so important for all of us to think about this as we begin to create our own learning environments.

I also invited families former and new to engage with our summer reading blog.  This was another way that parents could begin to connect and explore what they were reading as well as begin to have a conversation with me about the books they were reading. Again, my intentions are to begin to model “how to” use digital tools in ways that demonstrate how I will be using, my parents and students to highlight ideas and experiences we are exploring as well as how we will be connecting.

I have been thinking lately a lot about the value of learning from each other as well as learning alongside each other.  For me I think their is a distinction between these ideas.  When I am learning from someone I am watching, listening and asking questions.  When I am learning alongside someone I am exploring an idea together with them.  We have conversations and opportunities to learn from our interactions.  I am thinking this is important because I want to be able to model the value of both ideas.

Some ideas to help build your relationships with your students and families….

  1. Invite people into your classroom to help you set up the learning environment.
  2. Look for opportunities in your community that offer ways for new families to connect like an ice cream social, library night, popsicles on the playground!  These are all ideas that our community offers for new Kindergarten families, very successful.
  3. Offer frequent celebrations of learning before school where parents can stop by on their way to work.
  4. Offer digital tool sessions for your families where they can explore the digital tools you are using as well as how they will be used.
  5. Invite former parents/students to attend digital tool sessions you offer.  This is so successful and has a huge impact. A nice way for parents to hear from other parents as well.
  6. Set up a class blog!  This is a wonderful way to engage and share daily, weekly the how, what and why you are involved in.  Your students will look for this as a way to share and have face to face conversations at home about their days in school.
  7. Project based learning opportunities are a wonderful way to engage families, students and the community you work in.  I always begin by asking my students;”What can be we do to help others in our community?” You will be amazed at what your students are aware of and want to do.
  8. Twitter is a wonderful way to share important ideas and things you are exploring also.  Twitter has been a great way for me to be in touch with families and also as a way to model “how to” have a conversation globally alongside others.
  9. Kidblog is an amazing platform for students.  Some of my families have really enjoyed sharing their child’s blog with extended family members outside of Vermont.  The children really get excited to think that others are not only interested in their learning, but might leave a compliment too!

Here are just some of my ideas.  I look forward to learning what you are doing too.  Though our sharing we are able to inspire each other and have our thinking challenged.  Wishing everyone an amazing beginning inside/outside of your school!

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Being Grateful…….

Today I am deeply grateful for many things.  I, like others, am especially grateful for family, my friends and my health.  All of these things are important and fuel my energy and support me always. They provide comfort and joy.

I am also grateful for the ability to share my voice.  Having a voice is so important because you are able to model, collaborate, connect and reflect on what is most important to you.  Through sharing my voice I have been able to model explicitly how I can make a difference through my interactions with others and my ability to be transparent also.  My voice is my own and I try to use it with a variety of tools that help to inspire, capture and share how innovation and creativity can make a difference and offer ways for  peaceful, thoughtful and  gracious change.

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 10.38.24 AMPresently I am involved with a project based learning opportunity with my kindergarten students.  We have been building an awareness of hunger inside and outside of our classroom.  We have invited community people into share their perspective and the ways they, community business are making a difference for others who need our help.  My students are beginning to experience alongside their parents and others about empathy and how important it is.  Through this learning experience my students have created a plan of action and have also been able to share using their Kidblogs, Twitter, Skype and other face to face opportunities where they have been able to have conversations about the importance of caring.food

Thanks to Stephen DeCatur Elem@SD_Eagles my students get to see the impact they have had in the world! He tweeted: “@ We are collecting! We kicked it off by watching your video w/over 700 staff, students, & families.” I look forward to sharing this with my students after our holiday break.  An amazing impact we have had just by sharing our voices.

When my students created an iMovie and then shared our project globally we all began to experience that others were inspired by our idea and then in turn started making a difference where they live!  Such a great way for my students to share globally and experience the value of sharing their voice in positive ways!

unnamedToday I received a photograph from one of my students parents.  Their amazing child, my student has decided to sell her books over the Thanksgiving holiday to raise money for The Children’s Literacy Initiative. I am grateful for knowing about this and that my students parents thought that I would want to know and care.  My student will post on her Kidblog, but is also inspired to make a difference for others with the support of her family.

As an educator I have endless opportunities to model explicitly “how to” make a difference for others.  When I can do this alongside my students and my families in a collaborative way I am modeling not only the importance, but the value of this idea.  Perspective is important and what we do with ours is equally important.

Thanks so very much to all of you who read my blog and post comments that challenge my thinking and inspire me.  I continue to look forward to learning from all of you as well as learning alongside you.

Peace……….

A Celebration of Learning: Engaging Families Inside and Out!

One of the things I enjoy most about my job are the endless opportunities I have to celebrate and involve not only my students, but their families.  Family engagement is very important for all students and their success in school.  I continue to try to find ways for my families to not only engage, but also celebrate the wonderful learning that is transpiring daily inside and outside of Kindergarten.unnamed

Learning is really an amazing opportunity to involve and engage others around you.  Through our ability to connect, share and reflect what we understand we not only develop a deeper meaning of what we are learning, but we also get excited and want to share.  When we share our thinking is challenged and we are inspired by others feedback. Celebrating school, learning and each other is so much fun and inspiring.  Just simply highlighting an idea on a blog, using Twitter to “tweet” an idea can bring lots of feedback.

This morning we had our first celebration of learning.  It was wonderful!  Watching families engage and connect with their child and their learning is such a gift.  I appreciated all the support that my families offered ahead of time in helping me set up a breakfast buffet and also their commitment to attending and being present and sharing with their child and other families. One of my parents was not able to attend so the family used FaceTime on their phone to connect.  One of my students was able to share her work virtually, in a face to face way using a phone!  This is an example of how we , as educators must continue to think about creative ways to engage our parents.  They want to be a part of their child’s learning.  Technology can help make this happen! DSCF4582

Connecting and developing positive relationships is really important as an educator.  This is always my first priority when I begin each year. The relationships I develop are important and critical for the success of each of my students.  Parents need to feel engaged and also a part of their child’s daily life in school.  As an educator I have found many synchronous and asynchronous tools that can help with this.  Recently one of my students visited an aquarium and was able to post photographs of the different sea animals he saw.  This was an opportunity for a family to connect and share a learning experience outside of Kindergarten.  When the student had an opportunity to share he was able to articulate what he saw and facilitate questions that other students had.  Later on another student was able to post a compliment on his Kidblog. This is so motivating for students.  unnamed-4They want to connect and respond when others recognize their efforts and discoveries.

I continue to think of ways that I can connect with my students, their families and extended families.  Through our connection we develop positive relationships that support learning for their child.  I am grateful to have so many technological tools to begin to demonstrate alongside my families and their children how technology can be used in meaningful ways to engage, enhance and enrich their child’s education. Bringing families together to celebrate and connect is what is important. Learning is for everyone.  How are you engaging your students, families and extended families?