Open the Door to More

What if we created multiple, unique opportunities to bring parents to the school for low stakes, personal experiences?

Photo of Clint Heitz

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Update: 5/14/2016

Paula had a great point in the planning document. I'd like to develop the idea more to include how we can transfer the effect of these events and ideas to the parent/teacher conferences. That might be in the form of letting parent, teacher, and student come up with their best conference format. Or, perhaps conferences themselves are built into an existing event (i.e. over a cup of coffee, during student showcases, etc.).

I think the heart of the idea is right on target of building relationships, being proactive, and creating a comfortable environment; however, I'd like the make the connection more overt. How do we take this from what it is to showing how it transfers directly to the conference night?

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Update: 5/10/2016

Gathering lots of great ideas from folks here! I liked the idea of using EventBrite as a way to organize who is coming to what event. Are there other tools that work well?

How do we handle costs and teacher time? How might we approach local businesses for support (i.e. grocery stores for "bakerspaces" materials, restaurants for "Tapas and Talk", etc)? How do we overcome contract issues?

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Be sure to check out the Google Doc we've started to get this idea going!

During the Teacher's Guild Fireside Chat, Erica mentioned a school program that invited parents to a walking club to promote exercise and safety; however, that experienced evolved into a great way to connect with parents and teachers in a social setting. This lucky side-effect made relationships long before the high-stakes conferences and open houses.

My idea is to develop opportunities, a wide variety of them, to invite student families (siblings included) to come to the school for informal activities events. These low-stakes, high interest opportunities would help to learn student and family interests, share the human side of the teachers and administration, and build a bridge between school and home. Sure, some might say it is "more work" or "not in their contract," but our main goal is to promote the positive. If you can get it started and show success, more will come!

Here are some possible events / opportunities (which may even double as community services):

  • Walking Club (Thanks, Erica! Great place to start!)
  • Open gym time to come in and play basketball, volleyball, badminton, etc.
  • Ice Cream Socials right as school is released for the day (or a Soup Social in the winter)
  • Book Club
  • Open computer lab time for families without access to use a lab or two
    • In connection to this, offer small courses on online safety, social media, or how to apply for jobs
    • Google Hangouts for meetings, check-ins, etc. Google Hangout conference option. (Got this idea from Paula Marra's post!)
  • Study nights during which parents and students can come in for help (what better way to help parents feel empowered)
  • Student Showcases just to show off projects, work, ideas, etc.
  • Coffee events at pick-up and/or drop-off times? Convenient for parents and simple. Community donations? (Thanks for the idea, Cynthia!)
  • Open Makerspace Nights! Get use out of those awesome makerspaces by allowing families to tinker together

Feel free to help start planning here: Open the Door to More Planning

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Photo of Molly McMahon
Team

Clint --Dude... you're back again tearing it up! Such a cool idea! I feel like when you transition to being an instructional coach, you're going to have a porfolio of new best practices to try out. Good luck with the close of the school year!!

Photo of Clint Heitz
Team

Thanks, Molly! Too bad this idea didn't make it through, too, but I think the Guideposts to Success idea has the potential to grow and include this as an aspect.  We shall see!

Photo of Karen Sorensen
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Hi Clint,

When I was a the PTO president of a elementary school we didn't have money for after-school programs, so we started a parent lead after-school program where parents could make suggestion and volunteer 1 day a week were they became the leader of the program. It allowed for parents to demonstrate their passions--we had entrepreneurship club, designation imagination, running and walking club, game night, sports club, art, engineering, etc... it got parents involved with the school and became more committed. The PTO ran the programs with times, dates, fees if any, we where a that was 85% FRL but over time the ratio now I think the school is more like at 50% FRL. Because the running and walking club got so big, the school had annual race to raise money for its programs. This is an awesome way to get parents involved.

Photo of Cynthia Blair Tognotti
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Great ideas!

I started a fall, winter and end of year coffee at a local high school to get to know parents (no volunteer recruiting allowed) It's now in it's 5 year and continuing to build community and providing an outlet for "Busy Parents" many who opt to spend time with family versus a school event. I myself am finding it more challenging to make events, so I try to schedule things when its convenient for parents - drop and pick up. 

Love the walk, I walk before school pick up at 2:00 and have had success in finding parent to join n me. My son's school started a Walk A Thon that we do get an amazing turn out and raise fund for student computers.

Tech Shop events and student showcases are fabulous!
Cynthia

Photo of Clint Heitz
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Thank you! I appreciate the ideas, and I can already think of a local business or two who would love to pitch in for a coffee event or something similar.

Photo of Ellen Deutscher
Team

Clint,
Love to see this moving forward!  I've done family design challenges! Kind of like maker night.  Even something as simple as kids and parents (and grandparents.. and aunties b/c we like to participate too) doing the Marshmallow Challenge is a great way to make connections and learn a lot by observing. ;)
Just thinking how fun an improv event with whole families could be!

Photo of Clint Heitz
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I just tried the Marshmallow Challenge on Tuesday. It's harder than it sounds! I really like the idea of using problem solving and improv activities. That sort of thing definitely leaves it open for students to take the lead over parents and teachers. 

Photo of Margaret Powers
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Wow Clint Heitz there are so many great event ideas in your Google Doc! I wonder how you could get teacher buy-in and help teachers balance the time commitment of coming in/staying late to offer academic support, bake, help in the makerspace, etc? Is there a way to level the playing field so the exchanges that happen are more bi-directional (i.e., parents come and share a skills to teachers and vice versa instead of teachers just offering expertise/support to families/students)?

Photo of Clint Heitz
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Very good point about the shared responsibility! I like the idea of parents getting to share their talents. Plus, as you mentioned, it would make it so that teachers weren't always doing the extra effort.

Also, this made me think of the fact that students don't ALWAYS have to be present at the events.

Photo of Raquel Coelho
Team

This is absolutely fabulous!!
Challenge: How to record all this evidence. Or which evidence is relevant and how to record. 

Photo of Clint Heitz
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I'm curious as to what you mean by evidence? I do know I would envisions anyone involved openly sharing feedback, images, videos, etc. through school sites, social media, news stories, and anything else they can imagine.

Are you referring to attendance and tracking if parents involved in these events are more likely to be involved in P/T conferences? That would be hard to do without turning into a formal event...a guest book maybe?

Photo of Raquel Coelho
Team

Hi Clint! 
Yes,  you're right. I meant some sort of tracking without killing the magic of spontaneity. A guest book would work. 
Love the events!  You mention soup/ice cream evenings, which sound great. What about adding a cooking eve too for those who love to get there hands into some ingredients? Good luck

Photo of James Campbell
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Love that this takes away the stress sometimes associated with more formal parent -student engagement.

Photo of Lisa Abel-Palmieri
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I especially love walking time and maker night! Great ideas.. love the idea of wellness being central to health and development. 

Photo of Paula Marra
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Hey Clint,
What do you think of something like as another vent "shadow your child for an hour?" This could happen in the month leading to the PTC/SLC .

Photo of Clint Heitz
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I like the idea! I especially like that it is a shorter time limit than the usual "shadow your child for a DAY." The hour would allow a lunch break visit or to go into work a little late, both of which are more feasible for parents.  A challenge would be the logistics of multiple parents wanting to shadow, seating in over crowded classes, etc. However, those are all obstacles that can be dealt with in creative ways.

How about the stigma of, "That kid has his parents following him around!"? Do you think that would go away after time? How might we off set that?

Photo of Lisa Yokana
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Clint--I love the idea of the open makerspace night! When ours is up and running I'm going to host one!
Cool, thanks!

Photo of Clint Heitz
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YAY! If you are ever looking for someone to connect with to talk about makerspaces, be sure to let me know. Our librarian/media specialist is doing a great job right now and loves to collaborate.

Photo of Lisa Yokana
Team

Cool, Clint, I love to collaborate! Would you connect me via email? lisayokana@gmail.com

Photo of Clint Heitz
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Definitely! I just sent an email to both you and Tricia.