Tweeting in Public

In our most recent article on the Scientific American guest blog, we discuss educators using Twitter for professional development purposes and how important it is to be involved in this conversation. 
However, is understandable that many schools may be a little wary of their teachers blogging and posting on Twitter. After all, even more than something like Facebook, these things are completely public. In theory, parents, students, and the whole world can see what is being written. 
That being said, when you are an educator, it is implicit that you are going to need to follow some rules when interacting in a public forum–whether it be personally on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, etc., or professionally on any of those sites.
1. Never ever say anything negative about a particular student, parent, teacher, administrator, etc. (duh, but you know, sometimes these things need to be said. 🙂
2. Don’t use names, work, or photos of students or parents without permission
3. Make sure that your tone is professional–always remember that anyone may be reading this
4. Never say anything you wouldn’t want your boss or a parent to read
5. Despite personal feelings, try to keep your tone neutral on political or other hot-button issues
6. Personal stays personal (Obviously on Facebook you can be personal if you’ve set your privacy settings so only friends have access, but even then, always keep in mind rule 4.)
7. Remember you are a role model– The transcript of this Slate podcast discusses a teacher tweeting “inappropriately,” but also raises the question about what teachers’ roles are in social media…interesting read/listen.
Really if you just remember rule #4 you’re probably fine. 🙂
Don’t let the public nature of social media keep you from sharing what works in your school or classroom with other educators! The world of teaching and learning is only getting more open and transparent–it’s important to stay current.

Our Post on Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable –Technology Discussion

We were lucky to be asked to participate in Education Week Teacher’s and Center for Teaching Quality’s Teaching Ahead: A Roundtable discussion on what works in technology. The more discussion on this topic the better as it is clearly an important one to most schools and teachers. We would love to hear your comments on the Edweek blog!

We talk about how teachers need time to play in order to become more comfortable with new technology. Read our post here

Maternity Leave

I am going back to school after being on maternity leave since the birth of my second son in October. I worked up until the day before I have birth (on the way to the hospital I had two bags: my hospital bag and my work bag–waiting to hear if I really was in labor.)

There has been nothing more rewarding than being home with my son, but I have missed my other kids, too. One had a birthday yesterday that I was happy I could remember even though I wasn’t “in the loop.” Some of these kids I’ve had since third grade–it’s been hard to miss some of their milestones in class–I missed the 2Pac lesson! Constitution essays!–but I know that they were taken care of as well as or better than I could have done myself.  This is a thank you to (first and foremost) Shara, Debra, the administration of my school, and everyone else who picked up the slack when I was gone. I am excited to come back, to see my “other kids,” hear about what they’ve been doing, and to apply some of the awesome ideas I’ve picked up on Twitter while I’ve been on leave.

-Jody

Parent Communication

Parent communication is a huge key to the success of the student and the teacher. Most parents have differing levels of expectations for this.  Some want to know every single thing that happens in the classroom, some want to know if their child needs extra support, and some feel already overwhelmed with the number of daily emails they get and want minimal communication–just the “important stuff.” As a teacher, it’s important to make sure that your means of communication meets each parent where they are. Though this may seem like an overwhelming feat, here is an explanation of how the two of us communicate with parents.

Building positive rapport with parents is something that you must focus on in the first month of school.  Once parents know that you have a personal investment in the life of their child, they will much more supportive of your action plans, should their child need more help later on in the year.  Parent teacher cooperation is one of the easiest ways to improve student outcomes. Our middle school director encourages us to make positive connections as often, or more often, than calls dealing with problems; we find this to be invaluable. These positive connections help build that rapport, and can be as small as “I saw your son show kindness to a friend,” or “your daughter clearly spent a lot of time on this assignment.” In the first two days of school, the student’s advisory teacher calls each parent, touching base about student needs and making sure that the parents know their child has an advocate–even though school has just started.

It can be hard for parents to hear negative things about his or her child, but it can be a lot easier for parents to process feedback if they know it is coming from a teacher who has their child’s best interests at heart. We make a point of contacting parents once we see a student start to academically falter; we notify parents after the first month of school if their child is earning a B- or below. This way, if there are any interventions that can help the student, they can be acted upon while there is still time to raise their grade. Additionally, after grading a test or large assignment, we notify the parents of students who earned a C or below, who showed significant progress, and who did exceptionally well. These e-mails are usually only two to three sentences long, and though they do require a small time investment, they could prevent small problems from becoming big ones.

Much of teaching, especially in the younger grades, is attending to the social and emotional needs of students. We teach middle school, and only see the students for short increments of time. Often, we will notice that a student seems out-or-sorts, or had a falling out with a peer, but will not have time to address it before the bell rings and the student moves onto their next class. In this case (and depending on the family), a quick e-mail home can be invaluable. Though it is nice to have a paper trail to help you remember the communications you have had with a particular family, some issues require a phone call or face-to-face interactions–also, sometimes an issue is complicated, and will take less time to explain over the phone. We usually default to e-mail, but it is not always sufficient.

Some parents want access to due dates, assignment details, their child’s grades, course materials, etc. For parents who want this level of access, it is not practical to communicate this information to them individually. Rather, make this information available to them online. We do this through a learning management system called Haiku purchased by our school, but there are many free Internet tools to make a class website or blog; teachers can also periodically send home score reports.

This may seem like a huge undertaking, but creating a good relationship with the parents through relationships goes a long way toward improving student success.