Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Avoid Confusion: Create a Transparent Classroom

There is an old teacher’s joke that goes something like this, “If you promise not to believe everything your children say happens at school, I promise not to believe everything they say happens at home.” Just think of all of the miscommunication that happens somewhere between school and home.  Few veteran teachers have avoided being startled at hearing from an angry parent about an insignificant classroom incident that appeared harmless at the time, but somehow morphed into a dramatic confrontation involving an overbearing teacher and an innocent student by the time the child arrived home.

Not only can unpleasant incidents such as this be avoided with just a bit of planning and effort, but the rewards of a transparent classroom are well worth the trouble: cooperative relationships between teachers and parents or guardians, a more peaceful and productive classroom, students who are held accountable for their actions at school and at home, and more successful students as a result of increased support and cooperation.

One of the easiest ways to prevent miscommunication and establish a positive relationship with the parents and guardians of your students is to make sure that your classroom is as transparent as possible by providing easily accessible information about your students and their learning activities. A transparent classroom is one where your students, their families, your colleagues, and community members can all view what is taking place in your classroom at any given time. There are no hidden agendas. No secrets. Just adults and students working together.

When you create a transparent classroom, you are not a teacher who grudgingly shares test dates or other routine information with your students’ families. Instead, actively reach out to solicit participation and support from everyone concerned. With today’s technology, making sure that everyone knows firsthand what is happening in your class is easier than ever. Your students’ parents or guardians expect to be kept informed about these topics:

·        Class policies, rules, and consequences

·        Beginning of the year information

·        Homework and major assignments

·        Tests and other assessments

·        Grading concerns

·        Due dates

·        Field trips

·        Special projects

·        Resources to help students learn

·        Behavior problems while they are still minor

·        Academic problems as soon as reasonably possible

·        Positive things about their children

When teachers take the time to communicate directly with the parents and guardians of their students, the trouble that can follow miscommunication diminishes. One frequent complaint that parents and guardians have involves homework assignments and important project due dates. Take extra care to make sure your homework policies are published in several different ways and that project due dates are announced well in advance. The parents and guardians of your students should not have to struggle to find out what their child’s homework is and when work is due.

Some of the ways that you can make sure students and their parents or guardians are aware of the expectations, rules, policies, procedures, and activities in your class include these low tech options:

·        Send positive notes home frequently

·        Maintain a daily class log or calendar

·        Use the bulletin board space in your room to post information

·        Photograph your students at work and display the photos

·        Make positive phone calls

·        Publish a syllabus so that students and their families can plan ahead

·        Send home progress reports frequently

·        Return all phone calls promptly

·        Make sure parents and guardians know that they are welcome to visit your class

·        Invite parents or guardians to visit your class for special occasions such as guest speakers, field trips, and exhibits of student work

Some methods that teachers have found effective for creating a transparent classroom using technology resources can include these options:

·        Create Power Point presentations of your students at work for parents and guardians to view at open house or other schoolwide meetings

·        Publish a class blog or have students maintain individual blogs as learning logs. An excellent free site for this is Edublogs  (http://edublogs.org). At this site over a million teachers and students around the globe maintain classroom blogs.

·        Create videos of your students working and publish them on a class web page. There are numerous sites that offer free sites for educators: Google and Weebly are just two that are easy and quick to use.