Last year, in an effort to both involve families more in our classroom and cut down on having to repeat myself constantly to both kids and parents, I started sending out a weekly newsletter to my class community. I know, not groundbreaking. I did this as a first year teacher, working with middle schoolers. However, it's something that is almost never done in my experience with high school classes.
Here's why it made a big change in my classroom:
- Families felt more informed about the routines and expectations of our classroom. Parents often didn't know how to access all the resources or information I had available to kids, especially if their busy work schedules prevented them from coming to meet the teacher night or they didn't have regular internet access at home. I was able to include helpful parent tips that cut down on the repetitive questions I'd often get via email.
- Math-phobic families had a lifeline. The number of parent phone calls I've had over the years that started with the parent calling themselves stupid or helpless is truly astounding to me. The sentiment was always the same...."I never took (Pre-calculus/AP Calculus/insert any other upper level, scary sounding math here) and I'm just no help to them." To combat this, I often included content-specific information for families if they wanted to access it and include links to my own personal library of instructional videos. This way, if a parent didn't know quite how to help they at least knew where to send the students to get help. And let's be honest....it let me nerd out and share math with a wider audience.
- Families of the "sometimes overlooked student" still felt included. I was able to include news, updates, and photos to make every feel like they were involved. It wasn't just the families with a student in danger of failing who heard from me, it was everyone.
- My classroom truly became global. It was amazing to track the views on the newsletter and see how it was spreading. Some parents told me they had forwarded it to someone who was babysitting their kids for the week so they'd be in the loop. Others were able to share it with parents who might live in another state or country so they felt involved. I was able to share it with administrators and pull from it if I needed artifacts about our classroom. And it made all of these people feel like they had a relationship with me....one they wouldn't have been able to have it I was trying to scratch off a to-do list of emailing each one individually.
As I begin my year at a new school, this is definitely something I intend on continuing. I use the website Smore, which is free and extremely user friendly. In addition, it provides analytics and is easily integrated with social media. Set an alarm on my phone for a Sunday reminder, write my message quickly, and BCC it out to a parent email list I create during the first week of school!
Want to see a basic weekly newsletter from my classroom?