In teaching, as in the rest of life, there are best practices. And then there is real life. We all know that we should eat fruits and vegetables for an after school snack when we have low energy from teaching all day. Yet, that candy bar looks so much more appealing than that apple at four in the afternoon.
We all know that we should make positive parent contacts. We could make a phone call, but to better manage our time, and to give the parent a tangible keepsake for their child, a simple handwritten note is key! Yet, with the numerous burdens teaching places on us, it’s easy for this to fall off the bottom of the to-do list.
Here are three simple tips for adding positive parent contacts to your teaching routine:
- Address envelopes in advance
Each fall I ask our school counselor or secretary to print off mailing labels for each student in my class. Most student information systems make this a five-minute task. The hardest part is remembering the correct way to put the mailing label stickers in the printer. I then take these mailing addresses and put them on envelopes. Some students will transfer in and out during the year, which means some envelopes may be wasted, but having the envelopes ready to go makes it much more likely that I will complete this task.
- Set aside a specific time each week to write your notes
Think about your weekly schedule. You only need to carve out ten minutes. Do you have a specific time during the week where it is hard to be productive? Do you have a day of the week that is more challenging than the others? If either of these is the case, you’ve found your perfect time to write notes to families.
One year, I had a short planning time on Friday afternoons. I was finding it very hard to get things done during this time because I was so tired from the week. I then designated the first ten minutes of this planning period to writing positive notes home. This immediately boosted my mood and made me feel more productive.
To make the best use of your time, put together a basket or a drawer with your supplies: envelopes, note cards, and pens. Each week I flip through the envelopes and think about who has done something great. I then write a note to that child’s family.
I really enjoy seeing the pile of envelopes become smaller over the course of the year. If you teach elementary you only need to do one note a week to get through your whole class during the school year. For secondary teachers, it is more challenging. Some of you may be looking at five notes a week. I challenge you to think about the benefits and to find a way to build this practice into your routine.
- Be specific in your positive feedback
Finally, be specific in your notes to families. While it’s nice to say, “Your student is a joy to have in class,” parents really appreciate hearing about the specifics of their child’s day. I recently wrote one that said, “I really appreciate how your child values our classroom space. Before she leaves class each day she pushes in chairs around her and makes sure the area is clean. She’s a very responsible young lady.”
Following these simple tips will help you turn a best practice into a habit that will lift the spirits of your students, their families, and yourself, as well.