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IMCS Parent Teacher Communication

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IMCS Parent Teacher Communication

  1. 1. How to implement Montessori principles to enhance communication with our parents and families. PARENT/TEACHER COMMUNICATION
  2. 2. The purpose of this training: • To enhance communication between teachers and parents, which ultimately benefits our students.
  3. 3. Two Sculptors I dreamed I stood in a studio and watched two sculptors there. The clay they used was a child’s mind, And they fashioned it with care. One was a teacher. The tools she used were books, music and art. One was a parent who worked with a guiding hand and a loving heart. Day after day the teacher toiled with touch that was deft and sure, While the parent labored by her side and polished and smoothed it over. And when at last their task was done, They were proud of what they’d wrought. For the things they had molded into the child Could neither be sold or bought. And each agreed she would have failed If she had worked alone. For behind the teacher Stood the school, And behind the parent, The home. -Author Unknown
  4. 4. What do we know about our school? • We have our first year under our belt! Phew! • However, IMCS is still new; we are only in our 2nd year. • We are still in the process of developing effective ways to communicate with our parents.
  5. 5. “Coming together is a beginning, Keeping together is progress, Working together is success.” Henry Ford
  6. 6. What do we know about our parents? • Most of our parents are new to Montessori. • They have little knowledge of the Montessori process. • They are curious about Montessori and want to see firsthand how it works. • They sought our school because they wanted something different/better for their children. • They took a huge leap of faith that IMCS will deliver a better alternative education to their children. • They want us to succeed, and they want to be a part of our success.
  7. 7. What do we know about the parent teacher connection? Strong connections between parents and teachers can positively impact students! The evidence is consistent, positive, and convincing: When schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.
  8. 8. What do we know about the parent teacher connection? Many studies found that students with involved parents, no matter what their income or background, were more likely to: • earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs. • be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits. • attend school regularly. • have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school. • graduate and go on to postsecondary education. Source: National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools, 2002 (http://www.sedl.org/connections/resources/evidence.pdf)
  9. 9. How can we build strong connections with our parents? • Effective communication • Maintain positive expectations of parents • Do we have positive expectations of parents?
  10. 10. The Power of Expectations The Pygmallion Effect: Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson’s study showed that if teachers were led to expect enhanced performance from children, then the children’s performance was enhanced. This study supported the hypothesis that reality can be positively or negatively influenced by the expectations of others, called the observer-expectancy effect. Rosenthal argued that biased expectancies could affect reality and create self-fulfilling prophecies. Source: Wikipedia.org Impact: The subtle verbal and non-verbal cues teachers gave to students throughout the day (reassuring nods, for example) were important in raising IQs.
  11. 11. Maria Montessori understood the effects of expectations “The first step an intending Montessori teacher must take is to prepare herself. For one thing, she must keep her imagination alive; for whilst, in traditional schools, the teacher sees the immediate behavior of her pupils … the Montessori teacher is constantly looking for a child who is not yet there ...” Source: The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori
  12. 12. She must have a kind of faith that the child will reveal himself through work. She must free herself from all preconceived ideas concerning the levels at which the children may be. The many different types of children (meaning they are more or less deviated) must not worry her. In her imagination she sees the single normalized type, which lives in a world of the spirit.” Source: The Absorbent Mind, Maria Montessori
  13. 13. So, what do expectations have to do with parent communication? It poses the question: do we sometimes have faulty expectations … of parents? Do we have an US vs. THEM attitude about parents?
  14. 14. How many times do we just want to say … Give us your children and have absolute faith in what we do. Now, go away!
  15. 15. Are these positive expectations? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZso0xm0PQ
  16. 16. Maria Montessori understood the power of expectations “The first step an intending Montessori teacher must take is to prepare herself. For one thing, she must keep her imagination alive; for whilst, in traditional schools, the teacher sees the immediate behavior of parents… the Montessori teacher is constantly looking for a parent who is not yet there …”
  17. 17. She must have a kind of faith that the parent will reveal himself through work. She must free herself from all preconceived ideas. The many different types of parents (meaning they are more or less deviated) must not worry her.
  18. 18. How do we interact with children? What do we do when a child is struggling in the classroom? We ask ourselves: 1) What can I do differently? 2) What can I change in the environment? How do you get those answers? Through observation.
  19. 19. Let’s define the role of the Montessori teacher Finish this sentence: “A Montessori teacher is …”
  20. 20. How do we interact with parents? What do we do when a parent is struggling?
  21. 21. “Follow the Child” We celebrate the Montessori principle of follow the child. This principle tells us that rather than just imposing our goals and expectations on a child, we should first observe the child’s behavior and seek to understand his or her needs and goals. We should seek to know why a child has a certain response, or exhibits a certain behavior, and try to gain a perspective on the underlying need that is not being met. Source: LePort Schools
  22. 22. Can we “Follow the Parent?” To follow the parent means to step back, listen, and truly understand why a parent might have a hostile response. Source: LePort Schools
  23. 23. Follow the Parent As with follow the child, follow the parent does not mean that we simply do whatever our parents want. Source: LePort Schools
  24. 24. Action Plan: Foster connections with parents We must focus on creating environments that are conducive to growth, development, self-discovery and transformation. As Montessori teachers, that’s something we know quite a lot about.
  25. 25. Implement fundamental Montessori practices for both children and parents • Be humble • Believe in the innate potential and goodness of each • Respect self-direction, self-motivation and choice • Take into account natural tendencies, developmental characteristics, sensitive periods • Teach by teaching, not correcting • Allow time for self-paced development • Provide opportunity for active engagement • Get out of the way, and let them do for themselves • Treat them as individuals • Observe, listen and prepare to respond
  26. 26. How can we connect with our parents? Increase opportunities to connect with parents through: • Parent/Teacher conferences • Newsletters – Specific info about your class, students, and Montessori (Mrs. Roberts’ newsletter) • Individualized information about your students • Quick connections through phone calls, email, notes sent home, or face-to-face interactions • Parent Education Nights • Volunteer opportunities • Preemptive contact – Talk to the parents before the parents talk to you! (LePort Schools example)
  27. 27. Seek first to understand, then to be understood Understanding a parent’s situation and point of view first puts us in a better position to communicate effectively and with relevance. Once a person feels understood, he or she is much more likely to let go of preconceptions and be open to new ideas.
  28. 28. Let’s examine this scenario: • A student, Lacey, makes an innocent joke that she doesn’t want to wear glasses because then she’ll be a “nerd.” • Another student, Oliver, reacts by looking down and walking away. His posture suggests he is hurt by this comment. Oliver just started wearing glasses a few weeks earlier, and seems to be taking Leslie’s comment personally. • The teacher, Ms. Jones, observes the whole situation unfold. She makes a note to monitor Lacey’s social awareness, and to watch for whether she’s frequently making comments that don’t take other people’s context into account. She also wonders how the idea of a “nerd” stands in Lacey’s mind—was Lacey just trying to be funny, or is there a deeper insecurity about the fact that she’s smarter than others. • Ms. Jones also checks in with Oliver, just to see how he’s feeling. She asks him if he’s having a good day. He says he is, but doesn’t really open up, and does seem kind of mopey to Ms. Jones. Ms. Jones doesn’t explicitly raise Lacey’s comment since Oliver didn’t bring it up, and she’s not positive that’s what is bothering him. Instead, she finds some other way to validate Jonny: she reinforces his sense of personal value by asking him interesting questions about the work he’s doing, and gives him the opportunity to share his excitement. He seems to respond well to that. Ms. Jones hasn’t formed a hypothesis yet, but makes a mental note that Oliver may have a tendency to assume too quickly that others are rejecting him when they make an ambiguous comment, and to internalize those feelings of rejection. Since she has occasionally seen other signs of moodiness, she decides to watch Oliver closely for the next few weeks, and think carefully about what might be at play, and how best to meet his needs. She also plans to raise the whole issue with her Head of School in her next meeting, in case there’s anything else she should do. • Both Lacey and Oliver seem engaged the rest of the day, so Ms. Jones goes home feeling good about her handle on the issue.
  29. 29. But then … • The next morning, Mrs. Wynn, Oliver’s mom, comes in furious, wanting to talk immediately to the Head of School about the fact that Oliver is being bullied. She says that Oliver told her that Lacey and a group of other kids were laughing at his glasses, and calling him a nerd. She insists on seeing IMCS’ bullying policy, and wants to know what we’re going to address the psychological damage being done to her child. She brings in articles about the dangers of bullying in schools, and mentions as an aside that she’s heard other parents complain about Lacey as well. • Then the floodgates open. She brings up the fact that during the Peace Picnic, Ms. Jones asked her to bring salad rather than a main course, even though she’s been involved at the school since last year—and that this shows that Ms. Jones has never really liked her family. And, she adds, last year when Oliver scraped his knee on the playground, she asked to have the rope walk lowered so it wasn’t so far off the ground, and she was told that IMCS couldn’t do it because it wasn’t in our budget, showing that all we care about is making money. And that reminds her that we started charging extra money for school lunches this year. This reminds her that her name was misspelled in an email last year, and no one ever apologized. That reminds her about how the only spot ever available in parking lot is the tight spot rather than the wide spot, even though she has an SUV. And on and on, she offers a long list of problems.
  30. 30. Is she for real?!? Every single thing the parent is saying feels like it is begging for a defensive comeback, either because it is inaccurate or an exaggeration or a misunderstanding of our approach to education. And her angry tone seems so unfair, and seems to warrant a strong, decisive response. Especially during such a busy point of the year, and we really, really don’t have time to deal with this drama.
  31. 31. Here’s what we’d really like to tell that parent:
  32. 32. Instead, we do the following … Despite our own frustration, we collect ourselves, take a breath, and start explaining, nicely and patiently, why Mrs. Wynn’s interpretation is incorrect. We respond to her agitation with kindness. But rather than seeing how inappropriately she’s acting, our answers only seem to agitate her more. She treats our friendliness as hypocrisy, and doubles down on her criticisms.
  33. 33. What if the teacher had contacted the parent first? Imagine Ms. Jones, in addition to all the excellent things she did to handle the incident of Lacey’s comment and Oliver’s response, had also sent the following email to Mrs. Wynn: “Hi Mrs. Wynn, I noticed that Oliver seemed a bit withdrawn today. It might be nothing more than a low energy day, but I wanted to be safe and check with you. If you think it’s a good idea, could you chat with him to see if he’s enjoying school, and let me know if he says anything? I’ll of course keep an eye on him the rest of the week and see what happens. He’ll probably bounce back tomorrow! Thanks for your time, Ms. Jones”
  34. 34. A simple step can have a great impact Notice that Ms. Jones would not give any specific details in the emails, nor would she have taken a long time to lay out her hypotheses. All she would have done is fired off a 2-minute email alerting the parent to the concern. But by taking that simple step, she would have avoided, or at least significantly minimized, the entire situation the next morning. No matter what Mrs. Wynn thinks, no matter what her practical concerns, one simple email would have transformed an adversarial relationship into a relationship of trust. I see examples of this often at IMCS.
  35. 35. A proactive email from an IMCS teacher to a parent Hi Mrs. McCormick, I noticed Ian had a difficult morning when he first arrived to school this morning. His day progressed positively. I just wanted to reach out to you and let you know how much I enjoy being Ian's teacher :) I am here to help you at all times if/when you need me. Sincerely, Meghan Sellers Mom’s reply: Thank you very much, Ms. Meghan! He was upset that I put lip balm on his lips! I think it has to do with his sensory issue, but sometimes it's behavioral. Your reaching out means a lot to me. We are very happy at IM and I am so glad you are his teacher. :-) Sincerely, Debra McCormick
  36. 36. Build trust! Parents must believe • We are committed to providing their child with our very best • We recognize and value their child’s uniqueness • We value them as members of our school community • Their child’s well-being is our top priority • Their child is safe while at our school • They have made the right choice for their child
  37. 37. How can IMCS administrators help teachers connect with parents? • Discuss
  38. 38. Communication Matters