No Parent Left Behind: A Backdoor Method to Effect Change

10/12/2010 01:28 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I must say I LOVE teaching fourth grade. There's nothing better than those first moments in the morning when, fresh from the previous day's memories, each student walks through the door with a huge smile because he's happy to be there and can't wait to see what fun things you have planned for the day. I really enjoy planning exciting lessons and I love to use technology as much as possible. It just makes sense to include technology in my classroom when its such a normal part of our lives anyway. Believe it not though, there are teachers like me who struggle to create a classroom environment where technology is seamlessly integrated into the curriculum, because we face constant challenges in the form of assessment-obsessed administrators, frivolous paperwork, lack of equipment and funding, unreasonable demands on our time, and sometimes the students and their parents themselves for lack of understanding.

Now, I have to tell you, I am one of those nerdy teachers who spends a lot of time using social media to reach out to other educators worldwide. These are the people I've learned from the most, and with whom I have grown tremendously as an educator. It is because of these generous folks that I started blogging. They've allowed me to feel that I have a voice and what I have to say has some value. It is through my many conversations with my online colleagues that I'm recognizing a pattern of frustration. We know the educational landscape has to change. We know there's much work to be done. We know we are being called to action and yet so many of us feel powerless to affect major change from within the small confines of our classrooms. (We are very busy, after all, grading all the tests we are expected to give.)

There is hope though. Teachers in my online community are having conversations and helping one another see the value of getting parents on board to help affect change. It's becoming more common to see entire classes blogging, for example, where each child has his own individual blog space. This is a huge opportunity for students to write for authentic audiences and feel truly engaged and connected to the world, through their own writing. And yet, it's a constant challenge for teachers to solicit support in the form of blog comments from the students' own parents. It's difficult to know if parents are even reading their own child's blog. If we can engage our students' parents, I believe they would not only see the value, but they would come to have a heightened level of expectation the following year with the next teacher. At some point, enlightened parents will start to lobby the schools principal and the school board and demand that classrooms, activities, projects and overall learning experiences be upgraded to reflect the expectations of tomorrow's world.

After a recent online conversation where we were discussing this very thing, I came up with an idea that would better help me "walk the talk." I have a class blog and starting next week, my students will earn their very own blog spaces as well. I realize I'm very lucky to be teaching in a school where parental support and involvement is plentiful. So, as I was creating my students' accounts, I created an extra one called "Parent." My goal was to invite parents to "guest blog" along with us. Below is the letter I sent to my parents inviting them to join us. If this is something you would like to do with your class, feel free to use this idea and copy and paste any or all of the letter below to make it your own. I'm hoping this will result in increased awareness, better communication and at a minimum, a warm and fuzzy year for an enthusiastic parent and his proud child.

Now, let's see if we have any takers.

Dear Parents,

Next week, I'll be giving your children more information about their own blogs and how they can use them, what my expectations are and what their readers will expect from them as well. Then it will be very exciting to see their first posts go live on the Internet.

In addition to a blog for every student, I've created a blog account called "Parent." I'd like to offer an opportunity for YOU to blog too. Wait! Before you hit REPLY with "YES, I'm in!!" I'm thinking that you can take turns. You can write and I can post it for you (after you email it to me) OR I can give you the username and password and you can go at it. So, what will you write? ANYTHING from the point of view of a parent. Here are some ideas:

  • Your take on how the year is going so far.
  • Your vision on how school will look in five years and why.
  • Have you seen Waiting for 'Superman'? About the state of education... Thoughts?
  • How school was "way back" when you went to school vs. how things are today?
  • About a teacher who made a big impact on your life.
  • About a great tool you found on the Internet that you think others might like, too.
  • Found a way to get your kids to do their homework without a fuss? Share it!
  • Have you visited, or are you from, another country and have a different perspective that you can share?
  • What do you think about blogging?
  • What's your take on schools with no recess?
  • What's the best way to straddle that fine line of being an involved parent vs. being overbearing? Share your experiences.
  • How to get elected to the PTA by stuffing the ballot box. (Just wanted to see if you were still reading.)

I have more ideas but hopefully these will get you thinking. Each post can be as short as you like, but not much longer than 500 words. The way it will work is that when you write something, you (or I) will sign it with "posted by Sally's Mom or Dad or Aunt or Grandpa." (Since the one account will always read as "parent," we'll need to identify the author AND we'll stick to our "no last names" policy.)

Sweaty palms? Obviously this is voluntary but I do hope you will participate.

If you are interested, please let me know. I promise it will be painless and you'll be glad you did it.

Mrs. Kolbert