Regular Sharing, Regular Conversations
Are you writing Learning Stories and not getting the reaction from families you’d hoped for? Are you using paper or a moment-sharing app that is not really fit for purpose? Or are you interested in how Learning Stories can create a shared understanding and mission for teachers and families? If any of these apply, read on.
Authentic family collaboration – two-way communication, parents and teachers around each child working together – is the Holy Grail of early education. Teacher interactions and planning benefit from family feedback and course correction ideas. Teaching strategies and themes continue at home, maintaining consistency and extending the learning.
A child’s education effectively moves to a 24-hour clock. Learning outcomes will inevitably improve.
However, drawing families into this kind of partnership is not easy. Today’s parents are busy and connecting with them is more and more challenging. Time pressures, language barriers and different views of a child’s needs can get in the way of an open and trusting relationship between teachers and parents.
Not to mention, your day is busy too. And so the days of a leisurely chat at drop off or pick up, even when it is a parent that comes in, are long gone.
The parents are the world experts on their child. They have so much to contribute to their child’s education. If only.
Steps to Collaboration
Here are two essential parts to a genuine working partnership with families:
- Shared understanding
- Open channel for communication
Shared understanding around the learning and teaching, an open channel of communication so that messages will be read.
This is how thousands of teachers, using Educa, are working closely with families in partnerships that are satisfying for parents because it gives them regular opportunities to contribute to their child’s education, and career-affirming for teachers as it helps them be better at what they do.
1. Shared Understanding – Learning Stories
Learning Stories are a way to document learning for compliance that can also be used to engage and inform families. This a story-telling assessment format written for the child and for parents. They document learning and the teachers response the learning, next steps for a child.
The blank canvas of a Learning Story (as opposed to a checklist or series of observation snippets) provides an opportunity for educators to bring other adults (teaching peers, families) up to speed. They can describe the learning, connect it to prior events or insights from others. They can also describe their teaching – connecting the story events to their plans for a child and the educational philosophies involved.
Learning Stories create learning visibility, giving families enough of an understanding to make their reactions to the learning more meaningful.
Learning Stories also provide a way for educators to express their love for a child and to acknowledge family aspirations for their child. Part of this is weaving family expectations and family feedback that informed teaching into the narrative. This kind of narrative builds the sense of a joined mission, educators and families working toward shared goals for a child.
2. Open Channel – Meet Parents Where They Live
Writing stories is one thing, having them read and responded to is another. Drop off is busy, Learning Stories in a backpack are often not read, let alone responded to, and parent meetings are sporadic. Learning moments pass quickly, they fade. While each one if shared is an opportunity to extend and build, if it’s not shared, it’s an opportunity lost.
Today, the most robust and reliable channels of communication are digital. That’s where your parents are, on their phone – it’s the “remote control for their life!” And so that’s where you need to go if you want to start a conversation.
And even then, you have to be selective. These days, email inboxes and Facebook feeds are cluttered, neither work as well as they once did. Solving this problem is part of the magic of Educa.
It’s a separate and private channel. Educa is a fully-featured platform that all users – educators and families – can access online. However, it is also a discrete app and icon on a parent’s phone – Educa has free parent apps, iOS and Android. Parents get a push notification every time a story is published, they tap to read the story immediately and can then comment right away and/or discuss the story with the child and then provide feedback.
This convenient and real-time digital communication fits the expectations of today’s young parents.
Educators using Educa also benefit from the other reasons so much of what we all do all day long has moved online – they can work together on stories and other documentation, it’s all in one place and they can access Educa from anywhere, at any time.
Print Is Still Important
Many educators are attached to paper documentation, paper Learning Stories. Children love to see and touch their stories, parents do too. Paper Learning Stories are tactile for sure, but they are not that easy to share.
However, if authentic family collaboration is a goal, educators will have to put their personal preferences aside. Consider these two images of tourists in the Sistine Chapel – notice the prevalence of phones in 2013!
If you want a parent to respond to a story, you cannot beat a push notification on a phone! Parents read about the learning as it is happening, and react in real-time.
Meanwhile Educa teachers and parents can and do print most of their Learning Stories – for reading to a child and/or for a paper folio. A child’s reaction to their story is also of value. It helps children understand themselves as learners. Furthermore, the child’s reaction to his/her story might vary depending on the reader – educator or parent – which is helpful to collaborating adults.REQUEST A FREE DEMO
Once a working partnership with families forms, so much is possible.
You love the children in your class. You are doing the very best to create learning experiences for each of them each and every day. And you think you are on the right track, but you wonder. What are the family seeing at home? Is there something in the child’s past that explains today’s behavior? Is this the right, track, should I course correct? It would be great to continue this same strategy at home…
The convenience and immediacy of an online connection makes the routine of regular sharing possible. Individual stories, group stories, comments online. And then, if the moment requires, meaningful in-person conversations resulting from the learning visibility of the learning stories.
On average parents engage with Educa 20x a month and engage in 5.4 conversations a month. This does not include the in-person conversations that occur as a result of the learning visibility at home and during the day.
Online is for conversation, and Learning Stories are the perfect conversation starter.
Particularly if you make a habit of always including a question.
You might seek background information, ask for an opinion or find out if the child had any reaction to the day’s events. The list of questions really is endless.
You can also use questions to make sure families understand the goals and language of your center. This keeps parents and teachers on the same page. This is particularly helpful when the culture of the center differs from the concept of school at home.
Here are a few other family engagement ideas.
If you are creating beautiful Learning Stories on paper only, but are missing the feedback from families, it is time to consider going online with Educa.
Find out how Educa can help your practice.REQUEST A FREE DEMO