Truth Talk: Conversations About Race

Khasnabis

Dr. Debi Khasnabis

Today’s bloggers are Debi Khasnabis and Simona Goldin, who co-authored with Ebony Perouse-Harvey and Margaret O. Hanna to write “Race and the Mona Lisa: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching Practice,” which appears in the latest issue of The Educational Forum.

Race permeates every thread of the fabric of society in the United States, regardless of whether we recognize and speak to it.

Simona Goldin

Dr. Simona Goldin

This truth is stitched throughout all aspects of public schooling, from the gaps in academic learning opportunities that children of color experience relative to their White peers, to the racial marginalization of children at recess. This truth weakens the fabric of the institution of schooling.

As teacher–educators, we support beginning teachers in seeing and responding to the ways that race pervades children’s experiences in classrooms.

In doing so we help them leverage the knowledge that children of color and their families bring to their work in schools as well as repair the rips in the social compact.

Our current research, highlighted in “Race and the Mona Lisa: Reflecting on Antiracist Teaching Practice” in this issue of The Educational Forum, is inspired by our awareness that children’s full sets of knowledge are often unseen in schools. Children of color, especially, are unlikely to be seen for their knowledge. This invisibility occurs in instructional moments when that knowledge is related to students’ racial or ethnic identity.

What does it look like when children’s knowledge is made invisible? 

A common refrain heard in schools is “That’s racist!”

Digging into this, we were initially surprised to learn what young children identify as “racist.”

When children are raised to be “colorblind,” they can think that referring to people by their racial identifiers is racist.

What are the effects of this? From Black colleagues, we learned that their race-conscious children who had been raised to recognize, discuss, and analyze race and its associated qualities were silenced by their peers and teachers in discussions of race.

One colleague’s son, after referring to a Black person as “Black,” was hushed by a peer and told “That’s racist!” This also occurs in instructional interactions when children of color speak about race and racism. When they are silenced, what becomes invisible is their racial literacy and fluency, their advanced and sophisticated knowledge.

More than just students blister at direct discussions of race in classrooms. Teachers also frequently steer clear of discussions having to do with race.

A teacher candidate once consulted with Debi after two Black students in her science class critiqued a Bill Nye video as racist.

The students’ critique rested on their judgment that the film featured fewer people of color than White people. The teacher candidate expressed trepidation about how to handle this accusation, especially as she saw nothing “blatantly racist” in the film. She wondered how she could convey to the students that their critique was inappropriate.

These everyday occurrences affect the health and vibrancy of classrooms.

In addition to silencing students, they fail to leverage and mine the racial fluency and expertise that some students, especially students of color, can bring. Further, students whose racial fluency is undeveloped lose out on critical opportunities to speak directly about race and racism, to practice having substantive discussions about inequality, and to construct, together, a pluralistic society.

We argue teachers should model interest and engagement in the child’s thinking. When students use racial identifiers, teachers should perk up, as this is a sign that their students are bringing reservoirs of knowledge about race to this discussion. This knowledge is a rare and precious resource.

When students launch racialized critiques, this shows their teachers that they have reservoirs of knowledge about oppression.

Recognizing students’ reservoirs of racial knowledge for what they are—assets to be built upon for learning—is in the interest of the child and the learning community.

When we silence these discussions, we uphold normative ways of being that support White supremacy.

Simona Goldin teaches courses pertaining to the sociology, history, and policy of schooling in the U.S. She conducts research on ways to transform the preparation of beginning teachers to help them teach in more equitable ways and has elaborated the teaching practices that bridge children’s work in schools on academic content with their home and community-based experiences. 

Debi Khasnabis is a clinical associate professor of education and the chair of elementary teacher education at the University of Michigan School of Education. She teaches courses focusing on multicultural and multilingual education and conducts research on pedagogies of teacher education that support the development of culturally responsive teaching and understandings of inequality in schools.

Climate Change: An Opportunity for STEM Education

Dr. Mubina Schroeder is an Associate Professor at Molloy College and is a Kappa Delta Pi United Nations Professional Representative.

In preparation for the upcoming Climate Change Summit at the United Nations, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated:

“We need rapid and deep change in how we do business, generate power, build cities and feed the world.” 

Climate change and its far-reaching effects on the lives of everyone in the global community represent a unique challenge for society—and a unique opportunity for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. STEM educators often contend with ways to promote scientific literacy.

How can we create the next generation of critical thinkers, creative problem solvers, and solution engineers?

One pathway is to promote awareness of socioscientific issues (SSI). Zeidler and Nicols (2009) describe SSI:

“Socioscientific issues involve the deliberate use of scientific topics that require students to engage in dialogue, discussion and debate. They are usually controversial in nature but have the added element of requiring a degree of moral reasoning or the evaluation of ethical concerns in the process of arriving at decisions regarding possible resolution of those issues. The intent is that such issues are personally meaningful and engaging to students, require the use of evidence-based reasoning, and provide a context for understanding scientific information.”

Climate change is an issue that affects every corner of the world, and students in every classroom may be witness to some of its effects. 

Several regions in the world have experienced unprecedented heat waves, water shortages, and extreme weather events–all because of climate change. The beauty of teaching using an SSI approach is that socioscientific issues often are complicated and multifaceted–allowing STEM pedagogues to be creative in teaching about them.

Some great resources on teaching about climate change can be found here:

References

Zeidler, D. L., & Nichols, B. H. (2009). Socioscientific issues: Theory and practice. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 21(2), 49.

How to Incorporate Environmental Science in Your Classroom

Rodriguez-Kaitlyn_blogHi there – it’s Kaitlyn Rodriguez again.

Sustainability and conservation are both key in helping the Earth.

Lately, more than ever, it seems that companies and organizations are moving toward more “green” practices.

Solar panels and alternative energy sources are becoming more prevalent. Recycling initiatives are seen everywhere.

Schools must now start incorporating these practices into the classroom and teaching students how to protect and help the Earth—but how?

With new curriculum standards and practices being mandated, many teachers feel overwhelmed and without enough time for “extra” activities.

What some people don’t know, however, is how simple it can be to incorporate green practices into their daily curriculum and schools. Below are suggestions of what teachers can do to learn more about being eco-friendly, teaching their students about the environment, and helping their school and community.

  1. Host environmental cleanup days. Whether scheduled weekly or monthly, having cleanups at the park, beach, or even school can be simple, fun, and family-friendly activities for all to participate.
  2. Increase the emphasis of environmental concerns in the curriculum. Environmental issues can be incorporated into any grade level and subject. Besides the obvious science lessons, English lessons can involve students writing research reports on endangered species or writing persuasive letters to local officials, urging them to increase their environmental awareness. Social Studies lessons can involve looking at the timelines and history of conservation efforts and sustainable practices, while examining local and national politics regarding the environment.
    • Some organizations offer teacher resources to teach environmental awareness in the classroom. In New York State, for example, the Department of Environmental Conservation hosts a series of educator workshops that provide all attendees with a book of resources, lessons, and curriculum suggestions (dec.ny.gov/education/2035.html).
  3. Go on a field trip! Kids love getting out of the classroom. By going to nature centers or places that deal with the conservation of a particular species, you are helping to make the world more sustainable. Show your students that some people work on these initiatives all their lives, which could be something they may want to do when they get older. If traveling to the site would pose an issue, work with your building administrators on bringing the organizations to your school. A simple Google search provides myriad results for field trip ideas in each state (e.g., Kansas: www.ifamilykc.com/blog/education-learning/field-trip-ideas).
  4. Take the classroom outside. Teach a lesson outdoors to give your students the chance to get some fresh air. Let them put what they’re learning to use in their local community. Go for a nature walk and teach your class about observations and predictions. Test a science experiment outside. Bring your class to an open field and let the nature around them provide inspiration for poetry or any form of writing.
  5. Make a STEAM project assignment that involves recycled or upcycled materials. Assign your class a project over a break that involves using recycled/recyclable materials to create something new, such as a robot. Keeping a project open-ended allows students to display their creativity and interests. Here are some suggestions of activities: https://leftbraincraftbrain.com/stem-goes-green-17-upcycled-and-earth-friendly-projects-for-kids
  6. Provide students, faculty, and staff with environmental, conservation, and sustainability resources from local organizations. Providing literature on what one can do and how one can help—and what can result from one person’s efforts—can offer the motivation to get involved and become interested in these topics. Increasing the availability of such resources in each classroom also is important. Scholastic has nonfiction articles for the younger grades, and National Geographic also makes magazines and articles that students can read. Look for ways to add more nonfiction pieces to your classroom library. Here are some books you may be interested in buying for your classroom: www.amightygirl.com/mighty-girl-picks/top-children-s-books-on-the-environment
  7. Start a Go Green initiative in your classroom and school. Set up recycling bins around the school. Have your students use both sides of their paper. If copies are made incorrectly, or you have extra paper, keep a scrap paper bin for students to use for projects, drafting ideas, and more. If you can afford it, or fundraise for it, buy your students metal water bottles to bring to class instead of plastic bottles. Model for the students what it means to Go Green and they will follow in your footsteps!

These are only seven ways to make your classroom and school a greener one.

If every classroom were to do at least one of these suggestions, just imagine the impact all those students could make on the world.

Tell us how you plan on incorporating sustainable practices in your classroom this year on the Educator Learning Network!

Sources

Black & Brown Face: How Representation Combats Eurocentrism in the Classroom

James Baldwin (1960), an American novelist, playwright, and activist, once said that children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

It’s easy to see how this can relate to blatant racism, but how are we as educators contributing to our students of color feeling locked out of the environment we have created?

Our students are absorbing more from what they see and feel than what they are being taught; thus, the materials we choose to use and the scholars of the discourse we share can have a profound impact on our students.

I recall reading all these amazing stories for our required reading textbooks about young White men who go on adventures in the woods, often with their dogs, or I would learn about these brilliant mathematicians and scientists who changed the world with their theories and inventions.

None of them looked like me.

The people that students of color would learn about came from recycled lectures about ancient Chinese dynasties during Lunar New Year, Latinx warriors during colonialism, or oppressed Black Americans during Jim Crow.

Consuming that type of media can be traumatizing for students of color because we see ourselves in those limited stereotypical references.

To Baldwin’s point about imitation, how could children of color imitate their elders if they did not see themselves doing miraculous things in science, music, math, and art?

Before 2008, children of color, especially Black children, were told that they could become anyone they wanted to, even the president of the United States. It was just something parents of color said but never really believed until Barack Obama was elected.

The importance of representation is buttressed in view of the record number of people of color and women candidates running for the 2020 presidency. As educators, we can offer our students a diverse set of heroes by selecting materials that are more inclusive and less Eurocentric.

Having an Inclusive Environment

The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” is incomplete in my view and should be adjusted to, “It takes a diverse village to raise a child.” As part of this diverse village, keep in mind that every figure you choose to share with your students will become part of their village as well; therefore, choosing solely Eurocentric figures will suggest a White supremacist approach to your teaching that would taint the safe environment you worked so hard to establish. Once you get to know your students and establish an environment that is safe and productive, you can maintain this environment by making MUSIC in classroom.

Make them the experts. As you make room for discourse in your classroom, give your students the room to speak about the topic as it relates to their background or cultural upbringing.

Use your resources. We teach groups with anywhere from 18 to 30+ people, and each one of them have unique experiences, so it might be wise to pull from who you have in your class. Scholars come from every part of this world; bringing that culture into your classroom will make that student feel seen and heard.

Support your students’ unique perspectives. Every student is an important addition to the cohort, and their feelings should be validated. Your students may be speaking from cultural perspectives that might be foreign to you, and it is important not to mischaracterize their zeal.

Involve yourself as the learner. In a student-centered classroom, discovery should be at the forefront of your lessons. Allow space for posing questions to which you do not know the answers and collaborate ideas for solutions with your students.

Combat the overuse of Eurocentrism. Your students are listening and watching very closely to the things you say and choose to share. Even when teaching a predominantly White group of students, we have the capacity as educators to use resources that are not part of the Western canon. Reflect upon the hidden curriculum you might be imposing upon your students.

As we continue to create environments that are inclusive of other cultures, we will simultaneously deconstruct the limitations of the colonial mindset and rewrite more complete narratives.

Resource

Video: “Changing the Stories We Have Inherited From Colonialism,” with Priyamvada Gopal: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOnBiHHPLm4&t=13s

Collin Edouard is currently a Gates Cambridge Scholar working on a Master’s of Music in Choral Studies. He earned a BFA in Vocal Performance at The City College of New York, and an MA in Music Education at Teachers College of Columbia University.

Reference

Baldwin, J. A. (1960, July). Fifth Avenue, uptown: A letter from Harlem. Esquire.

Call for Manuscripts: The New Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Common Challenges

An edited guidebook by Drs. Anna Quinzio-Zafran and Elizabeth A. Wilkins, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL

The New Teacher’s Guide to Overcoming Common Challenges: Curated Advice from Award Winning Teachers

Target Release: 2021

  • Proposal Submission Deadline: August 15, 2019
  • Acceptance Decision to Authors: September 20, 2019
  • Completed Article Due: October 18, 2019

Introduction

New teachers need a quick resource to use as they navigate their first years of teaching. They don’t have the time to read long journal articles or books to make just-in-time decisions about classroom practice. Rather, they need practical advice on critical challenges they face each day and throughout the school year. This guide is designed to support new teachers during their first years in the profession through print copy and online networking with peers and accomplished teachers based on ten common challenges.

In addition to being compact and able to fit into a teacher’s plan book, the guide also leverages a high tech, high touch approach in order to appeal to today’s tech generations who want just-in-time support. We plan to build a community around the guide, building in participatory events like Twitter chats featuring the hashtag #newteachersupport, Instagram challenges, Facebook Q & A live events with authors, new webinars that feature associated challenge topics, short podcasts, and social media infographics that act as reminders of important ideas in succinct and practical ways. Finally, the guide will contain an access code to resources; the code will take the new teacher to a list of pdfs with related material that can be opened with the access code for immediate use in the classroom.

Your Submission

This guide will offer timely, best practice, and innovative concepts across ten common challenges for new teachers: (1) Classroom Management, (2) Curriculum and Instruction, (3) Student Assessment, (4) Differentiation, (5) Relationship Building/School Culture, (6) English Learners, (7) Culturally Responsive Instruction, (8) Navigating Teacher Evaluation, (9) Data Literacy, and (10) Work-Life Balance. The guide, divided by topic, will also feature links to web resources.

Additionally, if your submission is accepted, we would like to offer further opportunities for you to leverage your leadership by taking part in our planned social media community (e.g., co-hosting live Facebook chats, Twitter Q & A sessions, webinars, a vlog, Instagram challenges and/or online roundtable discussions). All authors will be asked to participate in the online support activities from 2021-2023.

Keep Audience in Mind: The guide’s primary audience is new teachers. Additionally, the guide can appeal to PK-12 schools who offer induction/mentoring programs for their new teachers. Finally, this guide can be used by teacher preparation programs (both traditional and alternative) who teach, supervise, and support new teachers as they begin their professional careers.

Submission Guidelines

The editors are seeking well-written manuscripts for new teachers on any of the ten chapter topics. Manuscripts are being accepted for one-page articles (500 words) or two-page articles (800 words). Your manuscript should offer practical suggestions and resources that first- or second-year educators and student teachers can readily apply in their classrooms. When you write and edit, think about writing very succinctly so that each sentence is meaningful (like a tip in itself). We would like you to also include an original related document that connects to your manuscript that can be downloaded from the book’s website. 

Scroll to the bottom of this post for New Teacher Voice submission guidelines.

Writer’s Guidelines

  • 500 or 800 word document
  • Include an author-created resource, related to your topic, to stimulate thinking, promote self-reflection, and support new (not part of your word count)
  • Word attachment in 12-point Times New Roman font, double-space
  • If you include references, use the APA Style (American Psychological Association, 6th Edition).
  • Consider using bullets or numbered points
  • Write using active voice
  • Submit your proposal to https://kdp.formstack.com/forms/newteachersupport

LIST OF CHAPTERS AND THEIR DESCRIPTORS

CHAPTER TOPICS DESCRIPTOR OF EACH CHAPTER
Chapter 1

Classroom Set-Up and Management

Includes physical arrangement and how it can be easily modified for specific purposes, bulletin boards, record- keeping, procedures, and routines. This category also includes envisioning and maintaining a positive behavior management system, developing rules and practicing procedures, building relationships with hard-to-manage students, handling conflicts, averting bullying situations, and time management
Chapter 2

Culturally Responsive Teaching

Learn about children who might be living in poverty and its effects, with the myriad nationalities and ethnicities represented in today’s classroom.  How does one’s pedagogy acknowledge, respond to, and celebrate fundamental cultures?  Some examples of CRT include positive perspectives on parents and families, communication of high expectations, learning within the context of culture, and culturally mediated instruction.
Chapter 3

Curriculum and Instruction

Learning about district and/or grade-level curriculum, pacing guides, success standards, long-term and short- term planning, must be very how-to oriented, understanding grading expectations, how to plan highly engaging lessons for students. This category also includes Student Involvement – technology for learning, and anything you do with your students or you have them doing that motivates students to be involved in their own learning, including a wide variety of resources.
Chapter 4

Differentiation

Understanding how to implement accommodations, includes all types of differentiation with how-to’s – differentiating content, products, or processes – differentiating based on interests or abilities – scaffolding, tiering, cubing, RAFTing, etc., working collaboratively with other professionals such as special education/gifted/speech and language pathologists, etc., how to work with small groups, keeping the rest of the class engaged.
Chapter 5

English Learners

Especially looking for high impact strategies for helping ELs, ways to assimilate them into the classroom community,  engaging with their families, understanding how data from screeners correlates to curriculum design, best second language teaching strategies, developing strategies and materials using culturally relevant literature that focus on ELs and social justice, ways your communications can be translated, how to make tests less stressful for ELs, how to effectively plan so all students’ cultures enrich the classroom.
Chapter 6 Professionalism/School Culture Making the transition from student to working professional – establishing your professional identity with colleagues, administrators, support staff, families, students, and community members.
Chapter 7

Navigating Teacher Evaluation

Choosing the right lesson for an observation – preparing for the pre-conference – preparing students for classroom visitors – handling unplanned observations – how to advocate for your teaching.
Chapter 8

Relationship Building/Communication

Includes communications with students, parents, colleagues, administrators, and community members (including advocacy strategies to interact with city council, school board, or state or national legislators) – think about classroom newsletters, websites, use of social media, parent-teacher conferences of all types, what to say and how to say it.  This common challenge topic also includes becoming familiar with the community, its resources and values, how to get families and participating at school – especially how to communicate with and involve parents and guardians more involved in the education of the student, how to get whole families involved in learning.
Chapter 9

Student Assessment and Data Literacy

Learning about how to use formative and intermediate assessment to plan instruction – using summative assessment to determine how effective the instruction was – ways that student self-assessment contribute to success – interpreting data for different purposes.
Chapter 10

Work-Life Balance

How to juggle work and home life – seeing students’ parents in social situations away from school – how available you should make yourself after school hours – organizing work and home tasks – leaning on your

Call for New Teacher Voices:

New teacher voices are currently being accepted. Each chapter will feature three to five personal reflections on topics written by PK-12 early career teachers. The reflections may describe, for example, specific new teacher challenges or successes, insights or experiences that relate to a given topic. Each reflection should be written as a first-person narrative of 100-250 words and speak to strategies or anecdotal comments to serve as motivation for other new teachers.

Additionally, if your submission is accepted, we would like to offer further opportunities for you to leverage your leadership by taking part in our planned social media community (e.g., co-hosting live Facebook chats, Twitter Q & A sessions, webinars, a vlog, Instagram challenges and/or online roundtable discussions).

Complete new teacher voices should be submitted on or before August 15, 2019. Please include all of the following:

  • 100-250 word document
  • Word attachment in 12-point Times New Roman font, double-space
  • Working title for the submission
  • Chapter in which the proposed reflection best fits (see list of chapters)
  • Submit your proposal to https://kdp.formstack.com/forms/newteachersupport

Teaching Literacy From The CORE

Ms. Beckee walked into her very first classroom eager to teach her students to love reading and writing.

She strongly believed literacy is transformational for student success.

Ms. Beckee knew she had a big job ahead of her, though. The school where she worked had had low test scores in reading for the past several years, most of her students were labeled as “at-risk,” and she would have a limited classroom library. What Ms. Beckee wasn’t expecting, however, was the difficulty she would face in reaching students who came from backgrounds unlike her own. She began to ask herself, “How do I reclaim and sustain transformational literacy practices so that my students are successful, lifelong lovers of reading and writing?”

Situations like the one Ms. Beckee faced are quite common.

With the increasingly diverse makeup of students, pressures of standardized testing, and lack of funding, teachers often feel overwhelmed with the task of transforming their students into strong readers and writers.

Although this task does take time, mystery doesn’t have to surround it, and fear doesn’t have to drive it. Being a strong literacy teacher requires a lot of skill and a lot of heart (Freire, 2000). But it’s easy to lose heart when testing, pressure, and fear take over.

What I offer here is an invitation to examine your core and ground your knowledge and skills of teaching literacy in your heart.

The Framework

What I refer to as the CORE of your pedagogy are the four concepts to consider when reclaiming and sustaining transformational literacy practices. They are as follows:

C – Cultivate sociological mindfulness.

O – Operate from a critical social justice mindset.

R – Reframe learning as equity and excellence.

E – Exercise self-care.

These concepts are not linear, but looping in nature. This means that you don’t need to perfect one before you can move on to the next. Think of each concept as interrelated, both independent of and dependent on one another.

Cultivate sociological mindfulness.

Being sociologically mindful calls for awareness of the present, how the present has been affected by the past, and how the decisions you make now could affect the future (Schwalbe, 2017). This means paying attention and posing critical questions: What do you know; what do you think you know; and what don’t you know about your students? Ask yourself:

  • What are the experiences this student brings into the classroom every day?
  • How does my understanding of these experiences affect how I teach?
  • Why do the experiences of others matter?

Operate from a critical social justice mindset.

A critical social justice mindset for literacy “is an evolving process where teachers and students always consider cultural relevancy, employ critical literacy, and work for social justice as they relate to the word and the world” (Stachowiak, 2016). Ask yourself:

  • Whose voice is included in this read-aloud? In this decision making? In this literacy lesson?
  • Do the books I have in my classroom library reflect the diversity of the world, without harmful stereotypes and biases?
  • How can the lessons I teach continue to affect my students when they leave my classroom?

Reframe learning as equity and excellence.

Equity is about giving people what they need to be successful. When we reframe our literacy practices with this in mind, we shift to a true focus on individual student excellence. Excellence is about creating transformational spaces for learners to recognize humanity, engage in critical dialogue with their peers, and reflect. Ask yourself:

  • What does this student need to be successful? Who could I ask for support?
  • Does every student have access to information that would benefit them the most?
  • Are the resources I give my students equitable?

Exercise self-care.

As teachers, it is in our nature to take care of others and, in doing so, it’s easy for us to forget about taking care of ourselves. But self-care is an incredibly important and necessary part of being a great teacher. Make sure to put a self-care activity on your calendar weekly—and commit to it. Some examples of self-care include:

  • going to your favorite kickboxing class at the gym (kick that stress out!);
  • engaging in a sitting, walking, or eating meditation; and
  • practicing self-compassion: Forgive yourself, take sick leave when you’re sick, set boundaries.

Putting CORE Into Action

Teaching literacy from the CORE begins with making a commitment to critically reflect on the abovementioned questions. This self and classroom inventory will pave the way to transformational and sustainable literacy practices!

Dr. StachowiakDr. Stachowiak is an Assistant Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and a literacy consultant with The Educator Collaborative. Her interests are in literacy curriculum, equity literacy, and gender issues in education.

Recommended Websites

Recommended Readings

  • Culturally Affirming Literacy Practices for Urban Elementary Students, edited by Lakia M. Scott & Barbara Purdum-Cassidy
  • Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word, by Linda Christensen

References

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Academic.

Schwalbe, M. (2017). The sociologically examined life: Pieces of the conversation (5th ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Stachowiak, D. M. (2016). A framework for critical social justice literacy in urban elementary schools. In L. M. Scott & B. Purdum-Cassidy (Eds.), Culturally affirming literacy practices for urban elementary students (pp. 13–26). Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield.

Create A Video To Welcome New Parents

Communicating with parents and guardians can be daunting. It often begins at school registration, continues the first day of school, extends into Open House night, and then is sustained throughout the school year. With the high U.S. student mobility rate (according to the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study [National Center for Education Statistics, 2017], 42% of students make at least one school change between kindergarten and fifth grade), plenty of beginning and mid-year parent and guardian communication is necessary. How can a teacher maintain this level of communication without adding to the already-hectic workload? The answer is simple: Turn to technology and create a video.

YouTube for Teachers (and other platforms), and the ease of creating CDs, make it simple to create a video to share both at Open House and throughout the year as new families join your classroom. You and your students (with media permission from parents/guardians) perform in the video and include the following:

1. Introduction

Parents want to know who you are, what your background is, and that you have the skills to teach their children. Don’t be shy about mentioning your educational degrees and any special training received.

2. Curriculum

Groups of students can discuss each of the core areas. This is a great place to mention education standards and show a website where parents can access the standards.

3. Class Rules

Have students discuss the class rules, how they were formed, what they are, and the consequences for breaking the rules.

4. Daily Schedule

Students should highlight the daily schedule. This can be generalized but should include activity periods (art, music, etc.), lunch, and opening and closing bell times.

5. Volunteers

Discuss how parents are cleared to assist in the classroom (background check, etc.). For parents who cannot assist in the classroom but want to help, tell them how to find out about activities they can do at home (cutting out things, donating items, etc.). Some teachers have a “giving tree” in the classroom (a tree branch in a bucket filled with rocks or concrete with leaves listing items to donate to the classroom). These items are also listed on the classroom website or newsletter.

6. Special Projects

Explain any special projects that are planned during the school year and when these occur.

7. Illness

Have students explain what parents are supposed to do if their student is going to miss school due to an illness (including obtaining makeup work) or if he or she becomes ill during the school day.

8. Closing

This final section is completed by the teacher only. Discuss communication issues such as how and when parents/guardians should communicate with you, how and when you will respond to them, and how you will communicate with them on a regular basis (weekly newsletter, website, etc.); pick-up procedures and how to make changes; child custody paperwork; and other items unique to your school environment. End the video on a positive note, thanking the parents for sharing their children with you and pledging that you will provide them a quality education in a supportive environment.

By creating a video once, you lighten your workload for the future. Parents/guardians feel welcomed and informed and know their child will be well cared for.

Dr. Kovarik has experience as an elementary teacher, a guidance counselor, a primary specialist, and a school administrator. She currently teaches graduate TESOL courses in the online program at Notre Dame de Namur University. She coauthored The ABC’s of Classroom Management, 2nd Edition, which is highly recommended for all new teachers.

Reference

National Center for Education Statistics. (2017). Early childhood longitudinal study (ECLS). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/ecls