"The classroom should be an entrance into the world, not an escape from it."
-Attributed to John Ciardi
I have heard many times since I entered education, phrases akin to our classrooms should have glass walls, meaning that we should be communicating what is going on in our classroom to parents all the time, that our rooms should be completely transparent. On the surface, that sounds fine, and I agree that our practice should be transparent. We should have nothing to hide as educators.
Enter the apps and websites. Class Dojo, Edmodo, SeeSaw, School Circle, Class blogs, class websites, class social media accounts, the list goes on. I have used a number of them myself and they can be great ways of communicating with parents anything from remember to send in the permission note this week to please call me when you have ten minutes, or of providing students with a voice and a way of communicating with a genuine audience what they are learning about. I have seen and heard, however, of this trend going even further, with hourly updates and photos of what is happening in the classroom. A few years ago, I had about half of my parents engaging with me via Class Dojo in a range of ways, Gertrude will be late tomorrow due to a Doctor's appointment, Bob's drink bottle leaked, can you please tell me what was on the now water-ruined note? etc. and I used to wonder why the other parents were not interested.
There will always be a range of reasons, but I discovered a new one recently. The day care that Ms One goes to is low-tech. No communications through the day that show what the kids are doing etc., and only a summary sheet of when she ate/slept/wet or soiled her nappy etc, along with a two-minute conversation she had an average day today, was sooky and wanted cuddles all day etc. At the end of the year we were provided with a portfolio with some photos, work samples, notes about why they engaged in particular activities etc. and I realised that I was completely happy and satisfied with that.
I realised that I did not want the updates during the day about what was going on. There is an element of trust that the staff know what they are doing and will contact me if they need to. The other aspect is that I did not want the updates because I wanted a mental break and to able to focus on whatever I was doing without getting distracted (or judgemental!) about whatever they were doing. I want them to be focused on the children, not ensuring they are getting the photos and captions sorted (one our of friends has their child in a Centre with hourly updates)
Early Childhood, Primary, and Secondary are all very different in terms of parent expectations about how their child will develop, what they want communicated, even the worry or anxiety levels, and so I am not sure what impact this will have on my own practise if/when I return to a classroom role. I will, however, be more understanding of those parents who choose not to engage. When Ms One moves onto Kindergarten and beyond, I will probably only want the necessary communication and will look forward to the various masterpieces that come home.*
What are your thoughts on the way in which we communicate to parents? Those of you who are parents, do you feel it is too much? Not enough? What do you want?
* I of course reserve the right to change my mind and be a super clingy, anxious, I want to know everything that happens parent, however, I do not think my general attitude to life would tend that way.