Thursday, February 5, 2015

Connecting Parents with Common Core Through Remind and Twitter

This is also being posted on the Finding Common Ground Ed Week blog as well!

How often does this conversation happen for parents? “How was school today, what did you do?” We all know the response -  “nothing, not sure, can’t remember, don’t know” etc.

At John Swett Elementary (@jseroadrunners), we’ve torn down the classroom walls and are connecting parents with school life and Common Core implementation on a daily, even hourly basis! Remind and Twitter have profoundly changed our communication flow from what’s happening in the classroom to directly connecting with parents, via their phone.

We feel that with Common Core, SBAC, Technology Integration, Genius Hour, Writer’s Workshop and Number Talks we need parents to be connected with school more than ever! As Principal, I keep our community connected all day long, and do it all from my iPhone!

Are you relying on the monthly newsletter that’s published and emailed to your parent community? Do you post updates to your school website, hoping parents will read them? Are you still making newsletter hard copies to send home in student backpacks, hoping they actually make it home?

Schools make their ‘money’ in the classroom with kids, showcasing all that greatness brings parents so much tighter into the loop. When parents know what’s going on, they know better how to support their child, this is when lasting change happens, especially with Common Core!

Why should school leaders provide so many updates to their community on a daily basis? We feel it’s important to tell our story at school, sharing the daily nuggets of #eduawesome has made our school culture even stronger! Daily sharing helps our parents know how to better support their child with new Common Core math, it looks a lot different from when they were in school.

Think about this, the New York Times doesn’t publish just once a month, once a week, or even just once a day, they have continous updates throughout the day. Schools should have and need the same! Businesses, news stations and even friends are constantly sharing during the day, why should schools be any different?

When thinking about Remind and Twitter, picture a venn diagram. They have similarities for usage, and also are very unique by themselves. Only parents that subscribe to your Remind account will receive messages. This now allows them to be instantly and constantly connected to their Principal and teacher! You now can send your entire community text messages about whatever you want – communication is key to student success. Information is key to parent understanding with all the profound change we have in education.

Here’s a sample of what we share daily via Remind:
  • Teachers take photos of number talk anchor charts in math and parents can ask their child, “Tell me 5 ways to put together these numbers.”
  • As your child reads with you, think out loud with them saying things like - "I wonder" - "This makes me think about" - "The funny thing is"
  • Everything can turn into a story - waking up, going for a walk, being stuck in a long line, etc. Have your child tell you a story with details!
  • Ask your child about the current book they’re reading! Has something surprised them? Has something confused them? Any other fun details!?!?!
  • What is your child reading this week? What made them choose that book? Why do they think they’ll enjoy it? Have them tell you more!
  • Taking turns reading with your child is fun!  For example, "you read a page, I read a page...." - Always ask questions for deeper conversation!
  • From one of our 2nd grade teachers - “Sneak preview of this week’s learning goals presented today during our morning meeting.”

The amazingness of Remind really hit me two years ago after I’d been piloting it with my PTA Executive board for a few weeks. I’m known to ride the tricycles in our Kindergarten playground and during one ride I remembered there was a Remind message to send out. I simply pulled over on the tricycle (during Kindergarten recess) pulled out my iPhone, sent the message to my group, and went back to riding. At that moment I realized how simple and effective this tool was and I had to use Remind with our entire community. New this week, Remind just released a Spanish version, making it easier for bilingual students and families to use.

Twitter works differently than Remind and is our daily sneak peek into classroom life at John Swett Elementary. Twitter is our yearbook, it connects our parent community, it connects our teachers throughout the day in a way that wasn’t previously possible, it connects all the schools in our district, it connects our district office personnel into daily life. As I’m writing, our @jseroadrunners feed has 9,000+ Tweets. We want parents to know what’s happening in classrooms with Common Core, the more they know the better they can support their child.

We have twenty-six teachers with 530 students and being visible in every class every day is my main priority. You can’t know where you need to go if you don’t know where you are. Organized workflow is the key to success. Principals often complain, “I don’t have time” -- the thing is, once we use these tools, you will have more time. Being a mobile principal and connecting with kids in the classroom builds stronger relationships for everyone.

We have survey results as well, our community LOVES our Twitter feed and Remind messages, here’s some of what they have to say!
  • It’s amazing getting a glimpse into what my kids are learning in school!
  • Continual positive reinforcement of teachers with student engagement.
  • Pictures, pictures, pictures!
  • Love being able to see what’s going on daily at school!
  • We don’t follow on Twitter but love that they’re all embedded on the school website!
  • I love seeing the collaboration and excitement for learning from the teachers, so refreshing!
  • Connection to the school anytime during the day!
  • ‘Real-life’ and ‘real-time’ photos of classroom activities make my day!
  • Keeps me in the loop, with 3 kids at 3 different schools I can sometimes feel disconnected, Remind and Twitter don’t let that happen!

Some closing ideas!
  • When communicating with families, think about how they will be reading it on their devices. Multiple pages doesn’t work, messages/information must be short and concise.
  • I schedule lots of our Remind messages on Sunday for the entire week. Think about the time of day for messages to go out – 8:15am during morning drop-off is not ideal. If you’re hoping to have parents work on a reading strategy with their child, have the message send at 6:00pm, dinner is probably over and kids are relaxing before bed!
  • Our entire staff is on Twitter which has made EVERY day @jseroadrunners Open House. Teachers Tweet from their classrooms and I’m constantly sharing the #eduawesome that goes on with our kids! Get your staff using Twitter today, I guarantee it will change your school for the better!
  • Start out using Remind with just your PTA Executive board or Leadership Team, get them comfortable first and also so you can practice!
  • Once you’re comfortable with Twitter, check out IFTTT and put the internet to work for you! Every picture I Tweet gets automatically added to our Flickr page and is our pictorial archive for the year.
  • Our entire community isn’t on Twitter, so we embed our feed on the school homepage. Parents tell me they will have two screens up at work, gotta love the daily sneak peek into classrooms.
  • Print off the sign-up codes for your Remind messages and add to your new student packet, have parents get our their phones while they’re in the office, the time to be connected is now!
  • Get your teachers using Remind with their parents also, then you can subscribe to their messages which will in turn keep you more connected with each class.

Adam Welcome - Principal
John Swett Elementary - Martinez, CA

@awelcome (Twitter/Voxer)

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