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October 6, 2005

Can We Talk: Some Ideas to Follow

A reader forwarded another perspective on school-parent communication in the Madison School District:

Here are some examples of really positive communication:

Our child's savvy, experienced 4th grade teacher sends home a 'weekly work ticket'. The ticket summarizes test/quiz scores, unfinished work not turned in and includes a place for teacher comments. I think this format is exceptional. It is certainly a time intensive task for the teacher. During the elementary years both of our children often had to return weekly progress slips with our signature. The teacher both children had for 3rd grade sent home a weekly newsletter that was simply a joy to read. A synopsis was created of the week's work and provocative questions were included to facilitate parent/child conversation. Example, "Tell me about the way mummies were preserved in Ancient Egypt?" The kids do have some responsibility for communication.

The loss of the 'Ready, Set, Go' conferences this year was a blow to teacher/school/parent communication but both of our schools sponsored 'Open House' nights this fall and we were given teachers' email addresses at that time. Our school also will put a call right through to the classroom, which does have voice mail.

The teaching pair at Cherokee even emailed us in advance of the Open House to invite us to attend. They made a point of polling the parents about their use of email and again distributed their addresses and encouraged communication. We also have to sign weekly reading minute slips for both of our children. We had a pleasant voice mail message last week just letting us know our child was an asset to the class.
I was reminded of my mother's insistenc on writing thank you notes - a little kindness goes a long way. You better believe I will support these teachers!

Interestingly, our eldest's middle school math teacher has been attempting to get her district email address changed for two years to reflect her married name. She did give us her current district email address and invited comments/concerns. We get a bi-monthly assessment of all math quizzes, homework assignments and tests. I think this is clearly another example of smart, experienced teachers reaching out to families to support their student's learning.

Cherokee Elementary School sponsored an optional summer program as an orientation for incoming students. The multi- day program was the result of a grant written by Principal Karen Seno to relieve the anxiety 6th graders felt about starting at a new school. The program is partially funded by MSCR and notifications were made in the Spring of the 5th grade year, at the Cherokee Open House and via a mailing to the home. The participants went on a scavenger hunt to learn the building layout, met faculty and even practiced using their combination locks. It made for a soft landing at the start of Middle School.

Cherokee students found out who their teachers were when they attended registration. The registration itself was the model of efficiency. A PTO sponsored picnic was held the first week and all of the 6th grade teachers, the learning coordinator, unified arts teachers and the Principal attended. The kids were given an incentive to introduce their parents to as many of their teachers as possible. I was impressed by the staff's commitment and enthusiasm.

Posted by Jim Zellmer at October 6, 2005 6:57 PM
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