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Monday, June 22, 2015

iZone Summer Institute: Is Anyone Home? Strategies to Reach the Disengaged Parent

This week I am blessed with the opportunity to attend the iZone Summer Institute as a guest. While Clifton Hills doesn't qualify to be part of the iZone initiative, we are serving students with the same backgrounds. Hamilton County was gracious enough to allow CHES some seats, and I'm so glad my rear end gets to be in one of them!

With this being Day 1 of the Summer Institute, I got to choose 3 break out sessions. Two of the ones I attended were lead by Dr. LaMarr Darnell Shields.

That's right. TWO! A plethora of available information and I chose to stay with Dr. Shields for more than half the day.

Now there are three possible reasons why I would choose to stay with the same presenter for two separate sessions:
1. I'm 2 weeks away from delivering my fourth child and it's wicked hot outside. Walking around Southern Adventist University looking for the different sessions would be INSANE.
2. (As Dr. Shields pointed out during one of the sessions...) Dr. Shields looks like a cross between Chris Rock and Denzel Washington. We could really just stop there.  :)
3.The information being presented is relevant, helpful, and could be easily implemented in my school and classroom. 

I'll let you decide which one won in the end. :)

Since Dr. Shields makes his living as a motivational/ informational speaker, I don't want to share all of the information given to us today. I will, however, go over some of the highlights.

Is Anyone Home? Strategies to Reach the Disengaged Parent

This session was pretty straight forward. We, as teachers, need to be able to reach the parents of our students. Sounds easy, but in reality there are many things that might hinder parent/ teacher communication:
  • No working phone numbers
  • Parents work schedule doesn't mesh with school schedules
  • No transportation for conferences
  • Teachers only call with "bad" news, thus making parents not want to answer
That's just a few.
As a teacher, I see the impact a good relationship with parents has on their student in my class.  As a parent, I see that staying in contact with my children's teachers insures that I stay updated with what's going on. Education is a 2-way street.

"Student achievement increases as the level of parent education increases."

This quote hit me on two levels:
1. Parents with "higher education", which includes having a high school diploma or GED, and a college degree of some sort, see the value of a good education. There's a reason that NBC did a whole group of mini segments based around the catch phrase "The More You Know". Knowledge is power, a good education is key, and parents who have pushed themselves through these stages are more likely to push their children as well.

 2. "Parent education" doesn't have to be solely based on how far parents got in their own personal schooling. Many people in America haven't attended colleges or universities and still live powerful, influential lives. In this case, "parent education" refers to keeping parents educated in what is going on in the classroom. Whether this means sending out newsletters, sending class texts, blogs (ahem), phone calls, or a daily behavior log, keeping parents in the loop insures that students stay in the loop.

No matter which type of parent is the most prevalent in your classroom, remember that teachers and parents work best when acting as a team. The goal is to end the year with the student more engaged, more empowered, and more learned than when they arrived on your doorstep.

Teamwork also needs to be the new "it" word in your school building.  
It takes a village to raise a child, right? Well, the teachers, administrators, and staff in your building make up a large part of that village.
Here's another cliche for you:
"You're only strongest as your weakest link." You know what this means? It means that everyone in your building needs to buy in to the concept of Teamwork. Just one "weak link" can mean a poor educational experience for a student, and, in turn, for the parent. Just one.

For the love of all things holy, get on the Teamwork Train and don't be THAT ONE. 

 With some of my CHES Teammates who also attended the iZone Summer Institute. We are not weak links!

Reflection Questions: These questions can be used during staff or parent meetings!
1. What was the best and worst advice given to you by your parents?
For me, I was a typical middle child. Most of what I was told revolved around the phrases, "Stop that", and "Leave well enough alone". Not sure if that was "advice" exactly, but goodness knows I heard it enough.  
After hearing those phrases at least 100 times, I learned to stop and think about my actions. What I say and what I do affects others, and I need to stop and consider what could happen should I follow through with a decision.
"Leave well enough alone" was, and sometimes still is, a hard one for me. To me, it obviously isn't "well enough" enough. It needs a fix. An upgrade. A... something. Who knows what I could be thinking at the time, but in my brain something needs to be fixed. 
Sometimes this is a good thing. Some things can be improved upon and the world obviously needs me to be the one to do it!
On the other hand, I'm not perfect (or a rocket scientist), and some things really DON'T need my interference. 
It's a hard call most days. I'm working on it.
2. What's it like being in a relationship with you as a teacher/ parent? 
Dr. Shields asked the question in the context of "Would you date you?", but I'm tweaking it a little bit. (See? Can't leave well enough alone!)

As a teacher, I want my parents to feel that my door is always open. Making an appointment to talk would be fabulous, but not 100% necessary. I want my parents to feel informed and updated on their student's behavior, grades, and goings-on. If there's a problem, I want my parents to know that they can come to me to work things out. I'd like to think that my parents feel this way, but I know I've let things fall between the cracks before. I'll do my darndest to not let this happen this coming year. 

As a parent, I'm one of those.  I can admit it. I think it's because I'm a teacher as well, but, if my child is in your class, I'm judging you. 
  • Are you conducting your class in a way of which I approve? 
  • Are you staying in contact with me? 
  • Do I feel updated and connected? 
  • How's your spelling and punctuation in that newsletter of yours? (Don't even get me started. I once fixed a newsletter with a red sharpie and sent it back the next day. #notahappymommy #useadictionary) 
If I have any concerns with my personal children, I'll follow procedures to make sure my concerns are heard. I'll be polite. I'll be sensitive. But I'll also be  thinking that, if I can do it in my classroom, so can you.

My little Minions. Upcoming 1st graders and 3rd grader.

Thank you, Dr. Shields for a great first session! 

Websites to check out:
Raising Him Alone- a website for single moms


I'd love to hear from you!
Answer the reflection questions down in the comments and I'll email you a product from my TPT store! 
After you answer the questions just add which product you'd like from my store and your email address. I'll get it to you as soon as I can!


  1. Oh how I've missed your blog!!!
    Thank you so much for sharing such valuable information from Dr. Shield's session. I'm sad to say I did not have the opportunity to hear him today.

  2. I'm so glad I got to see you today! If you can, go to his sessions tomorrow. They are TOTALLY worth the time!!