Guest Post

Then and Now: Parent Communication

Technology has profoundly changed the way teachers connect with families in just five years. Looking back at my student teaching experience, I am amazed at the shift in communication methods. People were just signing up for Square, Google Glass was in the works, and the best multi-media smartphone of 2012 was the Apple iPhone 4S. This is the device I was using when I started my internship in a kindergarten class in Seattle, WA.

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It isn’t typical for Seattle to get blasted with snow but the Pacific Northwest storm of January 2012 brought record snowfall. It shut down the city on the first day of my internship. The snow began to fall around 9:00 AM and I was promptly informed that my task was to call every parent on the list. I was to tell them school is closing and it’s time to pick up their child immediately. If they didn’t answer, call their work. There were twenty-six students and potentially four numbers for each family. One hundred and four phone numbers. Can you imagine if you had two teachers side-by-side, one calling one hundred and four numbers and the other sending out a Bloomz alert?! Members of the Bloomz teacher’s class would already be home by the time the calling teacher was halfway down the list.

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This is me now.

Nevertheless I had to call these strangers. Strangers who I wanted to make a good impression on. I wanted them to believe in my capacity to be an effective teacher and well, I just wanted them to like me. I hadn’t even sent a letter of introduction and now here I am interrupting them at work to politely ask them to pick up their child. Not the best first impression, but I did it! Now when snow begins to fall heavily during the school day, my administration sends out a Bloomz alert and before I know it students are getting called out of my class for pick-up.

Back to my student teaching experience. On completion of the calling catastrophe, I asked my mentor if he ever thought about creating a Facebook or Twitter account where he could put out an alert so all families would be informed of an early pick-up at the same time. With an absolute “no” he informed me of the strict social media policies that wouldn’t allow for it. Its incredible to think how different my internship would have been if Bloomz were in the equation. The Bloomz Privacy Policy aligns with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as well as the Bloomz Student Privacy Pledge. Bloomz saves me time and is safe and secure for students.

Another aspect of my student teaching experience was sending daily emails, monthly newsletters, and class calendars. Newsletters and calendars were sent in digital and paper forms. For thirty minutes at the end of each school day I sat at the computer to concoct an email detailing curriculum, highlights, notes, and reminders. They weren’t so much personal emails as they were informative memos. My mentor created a template for the daily emails. Here is an example of what I sent to families.

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The teacher I had the privilege to intern for was exceptional. Its generally not the standard for teachers to send daily comprehensive emails. My mentor provided a rigorous experience that I’m forever grateful for. I carried this process of daily curriculum breakdown via email to my first year kindergarten teaching position. It impressed my administrator as well as the parents in my class because at that school the standard was to send out three emails per week. I sent five because I was accustomed to it. While this method was adequate in conveying information today my experience as a teacher using Bloomz is much different. I post daily updates with bits of information and a picture or video. Parents view, like and comment on the updates. This method provides for a more interactive experience between myself and the families. In the past people rarely, if ever, responded to my emails. A few parents would thank me in person for the emails and tell me they read them everyday and looked forward to them. If not for them I would have had no idea. With Bloomz I get a sense of engagement and I think it is easier for families to digest bits of information with visuals.

Sharing pictures was another “aha moment” in my student teaching experience. Throughout the day I would photograph moments so that I could remember everything for the email I would send. I sent the pictures to my phone and attached them to the parent emails. This was something that stood out to my mentor. When he saw I included pictures in my daily emails, his face lit up. As a student teacher I lived for these moments. I finally did something right!

Remembering all these steps I took to communicate with families back in 2012 seems so clunky and time consuming now that I have Bloomz. There’s no need for daily emails, emailing pictures to myself, or calling one hundred and four phone numbers. Bloomz is a on-stop-shop for all parent communication.

Congrats to all the incoming student teachers who will learn to utilize Bloomz this year! You are in for a treat when it comes to proficiency and convenience when communicating with families. Please share your experiences using Bloomz for the first time in the comments section below.

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