Communicating with Parents - Over 400 of Them!
A story from Linda Belden
Linda Belden loves almost every aspect of her job as an elementary school music teacher in Olathe, Kansas. Still, if one thing frustrates her about her job, it’s the challenges surrounding communication with parents. “There’s so many opportunities for miscommunication to happen when you didn’t necessarily need for it to happen, or for wires to get crossed.”
Linda teaches a total of 430 kids. Because her attention is divided among so many students, it can be hard to give feedback quickly enough for them to make changes. In the past, when students behaved poorly in class, she lacked the time and tools to keep parents updated. “Sending out an email to all of our parents would take forever.”
As a result, students’ minor problems sometimes grew into big ones. When their children’s report cards eventually came home, some parents would be shocked by the low grades.
Implementing ClassDojo has helped Linda bump up the frequency of her communications. She now sends weekly reports to parents, which not only helps students make positive changes, but also keeps the parents from feeling blindsided.
“It solves that problem of communication, so when parents get the grade card, it’s not a surprise. Whatever the grade is, they’re not going to go, What?! ‘Cause I don’t like that feeling as a parent. Those aren’t the kind of surprises that you like.”
Not only do the parents receive feedback more frequently; they also receive it in greater depth. Instead of seeing a general behavior grade, they now know whether their children participate, follow directions, and care for classroom materials. When a parent recently emailed Linda, asking how she could help her son improve his behavior, Linda answered in detail.
“Their kid is an awesome kid, he’s just very off task. You know, he’s kind of in his own little world. They really want to work with him and want him to be successful. They said the feedback has been very helpful. And he has been a little better.”
Since she’s giving more feedback now, Linda takes extra care to strike a balance between the positive and negative. “We all need both.” Giving more favorable feedback has not only lifted parents’ spirits, but also helped students feel excited about coming to class.
Now that communication has become less stressful for Linda, she can focus on her favorite aspect of teaching: observing students’ creativity. “They don’t think like adults at all. I love the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes because it really shows how children think, their imagination. They come up with the most interesting and creative answers to things.”