Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Homework and Parental Involvement

Some of my students (just like any kid) are just making all sorts of excuses to their parents about homework. For many of them, it was not working when I gave homework each day. I was also not getting back the weekly homework folders even when I gave them a homework log. They lost their homework notebooks after a week. Some parents were asking me if it was true that I was not giving homework. Excuses, excuses...it's never ending. But not anymore this time with my online homework.
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I am already seeing some progress from my students with the system that I put in place in my classroom, but I believe we can still do better. If only I can get 100% involvement from the parents of my students, it will send a clear message to the students that their parents are concerned about how they are doing in school and that they value their education a lot.
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I am doing just everything to get them as my allies in their child's education:
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- I send positive notes home to my students' parents or guardians
- I send periodic messages of their child's accomplishments and small achievements in my class
- I occasionally call parents to communicate some good news and some concerns about their child
- I invite them to become more involved
- In the past, I made regular home visits to show them that I am genuinely interested in their child
- I email them regularly, every week, sometimes 2-3 times a week, to communicate our lesson plans, projects, homework, etc...
- the SPED Department held a Parent Training so we can reach out to them and help them improve parenting skills to support their child in school
- I openly invite them to visit my students in class and to discuss any concerns or ask more about what their child is learning
- I mail (postage stamps on me!) special cards or notes that my students made especially for them.
- I make sure that I am accessible to them even outside the classroom; they can email me and/or leave messages in the class blog to which I reply within 24 hours.
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I just emailed the parents now, and I will send notices to them too tomorrow. There's no more excuses for my students not to do their homework. Our class homework, is now online. My lesson plans, syllabus, etc for this year have been online too. Here's my class website: http://digitalanthology.blogspot.com/. Hmmm... will they find another excuse next time I call to follow up on homework? DCPS is giving monetary incentive to encourage students to be more academically responsible, my students don't want to get a $0.00 in their checks every two weeks.
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Computer accessibility? They can go to the nearest Public Library for this. Those parents who are really serious about the education of my students will find all means to push and motivate their child to succeed. They will find the time to help them in accomplishing their homework and school requirements, and they will communicate to my students in every way possible that education is important.
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It is not only the teachers who need professional development training, the parents also need training on parental skills. Not all adults have pleasant memories of school. They avoid schools even in adulthood.
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But I will do whatever it takes to get the parents or guardians of my students involved in school. This is no easy job. Not all parents are responsible caring adults. Nonetheless, I am doing all that I can to break down the barriers. This is the goal that my school has set for parental involvement. I believe that the odds of success are greater when schools and families make a team effort to help children get the most they can out of their educational opportunity.
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Before I end this post, I would like to share...
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We just got my daughter's report card from her school... straight A's, she's in the principal's list this first advisory! If she was still in DCPS, I'm sure she would be getting fat checks every two weeks from Capital Gains (would have been awesome!). But a Pokemon PSP game is what she asked for as a reward, not all students want money. She's in Charles County Public Schools now, in the advanced Math program, getting advanced scores in the MSA. She understands that books (aside from computers) can bring her to places!
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UPDATE (11.15.2008):
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So early this week I explained to my students how to do the online homework , walked them through it and explained to them the points system. I showed them how I'm keeping track of their homework, showed them the administrators page with the gradebook, and told them that they should get the answers correctly and that they should be able to explain the answers to me before they can get points (to check for understanding and to make sure they are not bubbling answers randomly just to say that they did homework).
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I checked the admin page Friday, and I saw that my students were really doing their best to get perfect 5 pts. Most of them did more than 4 trials each day. I gave them a quiz on Friday, which is on the same lesson/ standard, and 8 out of 10 students in this Math Resource class passed without retake. Unbelieveable!
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I found another strategy that works (*smile*), and I hope it will continue to be effective. Well, there are still few who need to be motivated. Any suggestions?

3 comments:

Maria said...

Parental involvement is a combination of commitment and active participation on the part of the parent to the school and to the student. There are many problems concerned with involvement. Many secondary schools simply do not know how to deal with the nontraditional family and the areas of concern that it represents. Parents feel unwelcomed at school, lack knowledge and education, and may not feel that education is important. The number of solutions that can be used to improve parental involvement are substantial. The most important of these, however, is for the teacher and the student to be totally committed. When these solutions are implemented the effects are great, especially for the student. Improved student achievement is the key objective.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your success--and on your list of positive strategies for engaging parents. As a parent, I might add one more. Listen.

I tend to show up for whatever the school wants me to show up for, within reason (I balk at taking time off from work--especially with no notice in the middle of the day--especially if there are other options). But, I would say that seldom is there a good match between the needs that I am aware of and the offerings of the school, in short, a lot of time wasted.

I want to know things like--what is the school doing to improve achievement as a whole, or for special ed students as a group? There is a place for individual evaluation and problem solving, but when I look at poor scores across the board, I think that it is reasonable to know how the school sees this problem and what they are trying that is different. When teachers complain that they don't have training to deal with students who have special needs, I want to know how they are going to get that training. I truly believe that things will not improve for my child until they improve for all the children. I am willing to fight for that (write letters, go to the school board, etc)--but I cannot do it in an environment that says everything in the school is OK--they just need better students and parents.

So much of the parent involvement literature is aimed at fixing parents. I think that you have succeeded in operating out of a belief in fixing the relationship between parents and teachers--by focusing on positive messages, frequent communication, etc. Just know that you are swimming upstream. Many of us have been beaten by the school hammer many, many times. Just remember, every parent has a story. Listen to them.

ms.angala said...

Dear anonymous,

Thanks for your insight. I am a parent myself of a child who used to be a DCPS student, now she's in another school district in MD and is successfully achieving with soaring scores in MSA and benchmark assessments, high ambitions and goals in life. The school's scores in state assessments are soaring high across all areas including sped and ESL.

She was just an ordinary student who liked to skip doing homework and to watch TV when she was in DCPS. What made her reach her highest potential? I know in my heart that it is the school environment, the principal, the teachers and all the staff are very positive, they care for the students, and they see us parents as partners with the education of our child. I feel their sincerity, and I believe most parents of the students in that school do feel that they are important like their child, so the school is very much supported. My husband and I are really excited to attend PTCs and feel a little guilt when we miss the Parent's Night or any of the events for parents, they're so much fun for the whole family!

This is I think what is missing in DCPS. I have many great ideas that I want to share to improve parental involvement but I feel like the focus right now is not on this.

Promethean Planet

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