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Author Bio: Michael Donnelly (@mrdonnelly3) is a father to a son born in March 2013.  He has been married since 2008 and teaching since 2007. He moved to Texas in 2014 to teach at Navasota Intermediate due to connections made on Twitter and the chance to work with Todd Nesloney: Educator of the Week for My Town Tutors.
Being a connected educator is a powerful tool for professional improvement. It allows us to work with people from around the world. I have personally found that I am much more motivated to improve and become better when working on ideas I have found through connecting.
For example I have sat through team meetings where we have discussed great ideas for things to do with students, but for whatever reason we all gave each other a “pass” and nothing ever got done. On Twitter I once just tweeted back to someone about wanting to do a collaborative eBook and the next thing I know I had joined forces with other like minded educators who were just as motivated as me to accomplish the goal. We wrote a poetry eBook together and it was amazing.
The reason connections through social media work better than just a typical school team of teachers is that I chose my team from a worldwide pool of connected educators on Twitter. Had I failed to come through on this I would have let down people who I had just “met” via Twitter, and didn’t really know well at all.
I was extremely motivated to get the project completed and not let my professional learning network down. These talented individuals would update me with the positive progress they made. This simple communication helped me find ways to overcome obstacles to getting it done myself. Too often people blog about the final product and how great it was to work with others.
Sometimes it is hard, but working with people who focus on successes and stay positive is the key. Being connected allows me to hand pick positive people to work with that help keep me inspired and motivated to be successful.
What I want to do is leverage this positivity to engage parents and connect with them. When parents are involved it helps improve a child’s education. In most cases, parents have a far greater influence in a child’s life than any single teacher.
The first charge as teachers is to find ways to connect with each and every parent we work with using the “by any means necessary” approach. That might be through a website, Twitter, email, phone calls, other social media, Remind, Class Dojo, or whatever you need.
When a child is struggling in class we should be using whatever means necessary to help that child be successful. When a parent is struggling to connect with us we should be doing the same. There is the worry that we might annoy a parent by calling them too much or sending them too many emails, but I think that is something I’d be okay with parents complaining about me.
So let’s say you’ve successfully used the “by any means necessary” approach to connect with all of your parents. Most parents probably check their emails, a few only answer the phone, a few might get Remind text messages, Dojo notifications, and then some just check your website regularly.
The next step is to become transparent, set class goals, and professional goals in a blog. Communicate these goals with parents and encourage them to read it. It will make them feel better able to help. Especially if they see how hard you are working to help their child and they want to match that effort.
Will it work for every parent? No, but you can probably leverage this to help most of the parents improve. Next, communicate positive things about their child’s progress. It just might be short little things about something great a child did, even if it was the only good thing a child did all day. Try to let that parent know. By having positive communication it will have the same effect of making a parent wanting to keep the positive going. It will inspire the parent to overcome obstacles in their way to help their child and become more connected with you as a teacher.
The key to success in education is relationships. Here I have focused on some ideas I have learned from relationships with other educators that I hope to apply with relationships with parents. I do want to mention that establishing a good relationship is key and it is important that as educators we use that to determine how to best communicate with parents. We should be looking to build a partnership with our communities. Positive relationships with parents will come from open communication and connecting with them. It will lead to more success for students; which is our common goal.