At the beginning of the year, during my ‘Back to School Night’ presentation, I referred to my class blog at least 8 times. I make the point that it was a key point of reference for parents looking to be in the loop of what was going on in their child’s class and school. Be it curriculum, the lunch menu, the colour we need to wear for UN Day or the instagram photos that show their child in action during the school day – this was something that should be on every parent’s radar. I even take a few minutes and ask parents to take out their phones, and sign up directly to my blog by using Blogtrotter – which feeds directly to their email account in real time, for free!
I would like to say all of the parents do this. Apparently not. We are way into 2017 now, and the end of Trimester 2 is fast approaching. Yet weekly, I answer emails with the line “If you refer to my class blog post titled…… (always linked to be on safe side that all paths are there for the parent to take, if they were to decide to go with that next click). I live in a country where due to the culture, socio economic factors, security and dynamics of the landscape, transport to and from home is for the most part linked to drivers, nannies or buses, even for our very youngest learners. The culture of a quick chat at the school gate it is not. And for that reason I tell the parents, it is even MORE important that this blog is your go too. Here they can find a wealth of resources and stay connected with their child’s learning. In my weekly blog posts I give parents and students a heads up of what’s coming, and this I point out, can invite conversations at the dining room table, they can then refer to the learning environment their child has spent the best part of 7 hours in that day. For the many fathers that travel outside of the country for days/weeks at at time, I see the blog as a great online connection to their child’s daily lives. Additional to my class blog, each student in my class, has their own blog. These are all listed on my home page, Dad or Mum can read what their child is thinking, feeling, and doing – all with a few clicks! Finally, it is a frequent occurrence that some of our students leave early for a winter break, or take an absence from school due to a family matter in the middle of the trimester. The blog allows them to keep abreast of the learning in class, be it for one specific subject area if that is what is needed and parents are made aware of what is being missed.
When I first started in my school, class blogs were not on the agenda, and I will admit to being a little irritated when it was suggested not only were we going to all have to have one, but that there would be a minimum criteria that we should follow with regards to weekly updates, and information that should be available. Surely this was not necessary. Then I saw it through the eyes of a parent, to my son who was then only 5 years old. My phone would ping as I got the Instagram message that allowed me to see images of my son learning, playing or just ‘being’ at school. As my son has passed through the grade levels, I have found myself learning as an educator from my colleagues blogs, that I would subscribe to yearly. I have learnt several ways to make my blog more user friendly and relevant, as well as blogs in which I have thought, nope, that does not seem to be so effective. I try to use these opportunities as a ‘window” for me to develop professionally from people who I work alongside and often have ideas that I can benefit from in my bid to be more tech savvy.
And I know my blog is working. My school asks parents to complete a survey for their child’s homeroom teacher. Questions cover topics such as ‘I am aware of what is happening in my child’s classroom’ and ‘ I am able to access resources to support my child’. Feedback has been very positive, and this is not because I am sending personal emails on all of these subject areas, but instead ensuring my blog is current, informative, meaningful, and both student and parent friendly, as well as being a digital forum celebrate and showcase student learning.
Blogging for Coetail has reaffirmed the usefulness of this communication tool with regards to learning, sharing and questioning information and ideas not just from my colleagues, but also on a global platform. For sure, not all schools are looking to blogs as the form of communication with regards to home – school, and I feel this is just one important element of that. I love a printed copy of the monthly lunch menu for my fridge like everyone else. But do I think it has a place in the learning environment, why not I say. What harm can it do?