I am challenging everyone to stop saying that parents don’t value education or that parents don’t care. Stop saying it for any reason! I expect a few people will try to provide examples of situations that prove a certain set of parents don’t care but I won’t listen. Yes, there are bad people out there and situations that make it very difficult to “believe” but what I am asking is for all teachers to ignore that and carry on as if all parents do care. Because I think 99.9999% of parents do value education, they just might not show it in ways that are typical or be able to show it in ways you are accustomed to. Maybe they had a bad experience in school, maybe they feel embarrassed, maybe it is cultural, maybe they work three jobs, just maybe. I believe that all of my kids can be successful and I believe that each one of them can achieve in my classroom. I think all teachers can yell that from the rooftops. It is important that we have the same blind faith in parents because when we start doubting them we are undermining a crucial aspect of student success. Parents matter, they are an important part of the success of our students. What can we do to support the parents that need us most? We ask that question about the kids in our classroom but I wonder if we ask it about the parents.
That old man in the picture above is my Dad (with my oldest son.) He never went to conferences, never signed papers, never read with me or helped me with homework or science projects. Mainly because he couldn’t or he felt like he couldn’t. My Dad migrated from Mexico picking cotton as a kid and his schooling was not extensive. He can fix or repair just about anything but struggles with spelling and writing to this day. There are reasons he wasn’t involved but I know he valued my education despite never showing that to my teachers.
You might never know the experiences, situations or backgrounds of the families coming to you so give them the benefit of the doubt every time.
I recently posted examples from my Kindergarten class blog and there were two questions that I got asked several times that I wanted to discuss in a separate post.
Question #1- “Do you have permission to show the kids faces on the blog” or “how do you get permission”.
When I first started my blog I did not have permission to show the kids faces on the blog. Please don’t let that keep your from starting a blog. As long as your administration approves you having a blog you CAN have a very successful space without ever showing a kids face (I rhyme all the time.) You only need to be creative with how you take pictures. At the bottom of this post I have examples of images from our blog without faces. The key is taking a picture that will promote discussion at home. Another option is blurring faces (see below.) To get permission for my class blog I had every parent sign a permission slip at meet the teacher. It was required for them to fill out. I gave them three choices: 1) I give permission for my child’s images to be on the blog 2) I give permission but I want my child’s face to be obscured 3) I do not want my child on the blog at all. You can download the permission slip here and the blog parent info letter I use here.
Question #2- How do you blur the kids faces in the photos
I use skitch to blur the kids faces. Skitch is a web tool and also an app. You can see how to do this with Skitch by looking here. I mainly use the app on my phone to quickly blur out things I don’t want showing before posting on the blog. Even though I can post the kids faces I make sure to blur out names on the wall or anything that will connect us to a specific location. This tool is free, easy to use, and a fast way to blur a part of an image.
These are actual images from my class blog when I could not post the kids faces…
Learning about seeds
Labeling the sprouts (done with Skitch)
Science experiment ingredients
Math story problems with Educreations app/website
Literacy lesson using Popplet app/website
Voting for the president
Gripcase and LetterSchool app
I often get asked what case I use in my classroom for the iPad. Until recently I didn’t have a favorite and would send a link to a cheap and simple case from Amazon. At the end of last year Gripcase contacted me about trying out their case. Full disclosure, they sent me one to try for free but the case is typically $40. I checked out the product online and agreed to try out the case without any promises. Now that I have had time to use this case in my classroom and see who it works I am happy to say it is a wonderful case for young kids and kids with special needs. I especially like the available stand for this case and the kids enjoy using it. **Every time I show an iPad picture on my blog someone asks about the app so I will go ahead and share that they are using LetterSchool app. This is one of the first academic apps my class uses. It is fun, creative and does help with learning letters. If you teach kids that are learning letters it is a must have app.
Highlights of Gripcase:
- Very easy to “install” and has never come out of the case
- Easy for kids to carry, the handles on all sides makes it perfect for small hands to hold
- Most cases that offer this level of protection are very bulky. The Gripcase does increase the “footprint” of the iPad but it is not bulky.
- It really does protect the iPad. Regardless how it falls the iPad is protected. Especially the corners, and yes I tried.
- The material is soft yet not fragile.
- The stand is wonderful (separate purchase)
- All the ports are easily accessible (see headphone concern below)
Concerns for Gripcase:
- Headphone port access might not work for all headphones. I wish the access point was a little larger but it has not been an issue for us thus far.
- The case might not fit into charging stations
Check out the video below if you want to see a video review and I have also posted a few more pictures below the video.
This year will be my third year with a one rule classroom. Be brave! That is our only “rule.” I wish I could put into words how powerful this rule has been in my class but really there is no way to for me to articulate it. Be brave is the perfect theme, motto or “rule” for any class. It helps with bullying, friendships, tying shoes, monkey bars, missing Mom, touching worms, tasting new food, etc. Be brave is exactly the type of attitude needed for young kids. Every day they are faced with challenges as they grow up into this big world. If the only thing I teach them is that they can “be brave,” I have succeeded.
Without rules my room must be a crazy mess, right? Well maybe sometimes but that isn’t due to the lack of rules. I have expectations in my class. I expect the kids to treat each other with respect. I expect them to carry the iPad correctly. I expect them to clean up their messes. I don’t have rules. What is the difference? Rules are restricting and demanding. In my mind, rules tell the class that I am in control of their behavior and my goal is they realize they are in control. Beyond that, I have learned that by removing the rules I have the freedom to handle every situation and every child in a unique way.
I also do not use any rewards or a behavior management system in my class. I have written about my reasoning and journey to remove rewards from the class (read here) and it really has been a journey. I started with sticker charts and a treasure box just like most teachers. I also have used many different forms of behavior charts. My friend Miss Night does a great job of articulating the reasons I avoid using these systems on her blog post “Too high a price: why I don’t do behaviour charts.” If you liked that post make sure and check out her follow-up post “Behavior management: relationships not systems.” The big “light bulb” moment for me was when I realized that most behavior management systems are a form of control. The teacher is the one in control and I want my kids to learn to be in control. They learn by practicing and through mistakes not by being managed. I think Mis Night sums it up perfectly, “I have relationships, not systems.” I may have to work a little harder without stickers and treasure digs but in the end the relationships built and ability to customize how I handle every situation has led to a much healthier environment and happier classroom.
I might just add these words from Christopher Robin to our class this year: “you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”
These are my “babies.” Gage, Bram and Aidan
I sent the following information to the parents in my classroom before the first day of school last year and I feel it was a great way to open our school year. I might add something new to this but for now I am sticking with the original message…
- I am as nervous or maybe even more nervous than you (and your child) on the first day of school. I want everything to go perfect and will do my best to make that happen.
- I don’t take your trust for granted. I understand that each student is someone’s baby.
- Relationships are key. I will work hard to build our relationship.
- Communication is crucial for us to be able to build relationships. I will do everything I can to keep you informed about what is happening at school. You will have my email and cell number and I want you to contact me when you have questions or concerns.
- I appreciate parents that advocate for their child. As long as we both listen to each other I know we can work to overcome any situation or issue.
- I want your child to succeed.
- We will have fun
- It may take me a few weeks to get to know each child socially, emotionally and academically. Please be patient with me. I will focus on getting to know your child’s social and emotional needs before worrying about academics. The learning will happen but not before the relationships are built.
- I don’t believe in traditional homework. Most days I suggest playing outside as homework because play is a child’s work. Read to (or with) your child every day. That is the only academics I suggest on a daily basis.
- I love my job.
- My philosophy : Kindergarten is a social year that should be full of play that promotes learning.
What message do you send to your parents or what do you plan to send this year?