Strengthening the Parent Alliance

Carlos Slim Helu is one of the world’s wealthiest men. A Mexican telecommunications mogul, his networth is in the billions. Truthfully, I only know about him because I ran across a quote attributed to him that got me thinking.

He said, “In this new wave of technology, you can’t do it all yourself; you have to form alliances.”

Hmmm. I’m already doing this, right? As a technology teacher and integrator, I am always forming alliances. I’m on committees. I know who to go to when I need testimonials for the successful use of  tech in the classroom. I have a band of “product testers”- 7th and 8th grade students that try out web2.0 tools for me and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses. I know who has my back all throughout the building.

I was tempted to bask in my glory when I realized the truth.  I’ve left out a big segment of my population- parents.

I look at parents as a part of my administration. In many ways I work for them just like I work for the principal. I am accountable to them and they deserve to know what’s going on- and not just at report card time. Truth be told, I need them to back me up when the going gets tough. It’s not right to only call on them during these times. I need to reach out  and keep a conversation going, making sure that they have a face to go with the name.

I’ve given lip service to parents- sent out articles in the middle school newsletters with an email so they can contact me if they have questions- but I have done relatively little to keep them in the loop regularly and let them know how and why technology is being used in the school for their children-and how we can help each other quide kids through what is sometimes a technological swamp.

So what now? It’s been on my mind alot this summer. Here are some suggestions that teachers and integrators can use to improve communication and build support:

1. Plan parent trainings. Choose a series of topics to present monthly that will help parents feel more informed about technology. Involve the students as presenters/helpers whenever possible, and encourage parents to bring their children with them. Be sure there is always a hands on component.

Some ideas for topics are:

  • Using the parent portal of the grading software
  • Discussing management techniques for laptops and cell phones at home
  • How to monitor what students do online- searching for images, movies, etc.
  • Ongoing discussions of cyber safety, digital footprints, and digital citizenry in general

(I’ve put these into a shared GoogleCalendar so they can be updated and added to as new ideas/needs come up.)

2. Have student showcases of technology use semi-annually. Nothing brings parents to school like pride in their kids. It gives another opportunity for parents to meet you face to face.

3. Create a web presence for parents in the form of a blog. I’ve started one called ParentTech that is designed specifically for parents of my schools. It has a calendar of upcoming trainings, contact information of who to call for what, links to articles of interest, and it will include student work as it comes available. Make your blog one that parents can subscribe to via email- they are too busy to get in the habit of going and checking your site. Also be sure to allow them to comment.

4. Celebrate great work and good deeds. It isn’t always the kid who gets the A who deserves recognition. Making a phone call or sending an email to comment on a student’s creativity or ability to stay focused with technology holds at least as much weight as a grade. Parents just love to hear good things about their kids.

5. Listen more than you talk. Parents are concerned about their kids and often feel a bit lost (I know- I’ve been there). Parenting is tough and even if you’ve done it over and over again, each child is different. Parents will tell you what they need to know- listen and make the information available to them as many ways as you can.

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