Monthly Archives: August 2016
Teachers are in public relations…even if we don’t want to be. I could spend a few sentences defining the words “public” and “relations,” but I think we all now how that would end. For many years, I actively avoided this aspect of the job. I remember making sure I left school right after the buses on report card day so I wouldn’t have to field any phone calls. Not my proudest moment.
It wasn’t until I embraced the public relations portion of the job that I was able to take my teaching to another level. How could this work outside of the school day affect what happens during the day so strongly? Here are some suggestions for improving this aspect of your teaching, following by an explanation of its importance:
1. Send a letter to students before you start the year. – You’ve probably read this one before. It took me ten years of reading this suggestion before I tried it, but once I did, it was transformative. Kids love to get mail. They smile when it arrives. When parents see you have gone to this effort, they know you care, and nothing is more valuable to a parent than knowing their child will be in caring hands for an entire school year..
2. Post pictures online. – It doesn’t matter what tool you use; there are so many to choose from. A classroom blog, Facebook, Seesaw, Remind, ClassDojo, Twitter, email – just find one that works for you and start posting! These photos give parents and the community a look into your classroom. Students tell their parents about their day, but the photos you send show them.
3. Be present in the community. – There are many ways to do this, but my favorite is attending athletic events and group performances featuring my students. Each year, I invite students to bring me a copy of the schedule for their baseball team, dance squad, or whatever group to which they belong. Then, I try my best to make it to one of their events. Kids light up when they see their teacher outside of school.
All of this takes some time, but its value is immeasurable. One example from last year removed any doubt it was worth it. One of my students continuously had difficulty with his behavior for substitutes. Whenever I was gone, I would return to read a note about some ridiculous thing this student had done. I contacted the parent, had a conference, and the parent spoke with his child. Among his comments to the child was, “Mr. White really cares for you. He came to your basketball game, remember?” The parent then went on to tell the child he should not be causing problems for a teacher that cares for him. This made an impact. The major problems for subs ended.
As teachers, we can recoil from or embrace the public relations part of our job. If we value these chances to interact with families and the community, we will see many benefits that positively impact our classrooms.
I found one of my classroom library books at a garage sale, and I’m definitely not mad about it. I’m proud.
Like most teachers who are trying to build a dynamic classroom library, I attend lots of garage sales. I’m always looking for books to fill a gap in a series or new copies to replace tattered favorites. Recently, my garage sale travels somehow landed be in my own school’s district, and after stopping near a homemade sign, I approached a sale hoping to find a new treasure. As I headed up the driveway, I heard, “Are you a teacher?”
Every teacher understands that question. That question means this person knows you are a teacher, and your brain starts searching its depths to match the adult with a child you taught years ago. It turned out I had found the home of a grandmother of a student I had in class almost a decade ago.
After a bit of small talk, I perused the sale, when I glanced over to see a pile of children’s books. Knowing I would put them to good use, the grandmother said I could have them. I thanked her and walked to my car when it caught my eye. There, on the title page, was my handwritten name. I had found a long-lost classroom library book.
I’m wasn’t mad. Surprised, yes, but not mad. This child was not malicious or a compulsive thief, so one of three things must have happened.
- The child was reading the book at home, and it eventually went missing, only to be later found in an overlooked corner of a room.
- The child wanted to have the book with her during a trip to trip to her grandmother’s house.
- The child loved the book so much, she couldn’t bring herself to return it at the end of the year.
All of these make me happy. Even the third one. I’m happy because in each situation the access to books I provided in my classroom made a difference. I had the right book for the right child at the right moment. This child enjoyed reading this book, and that is special. If I can motivate and inspire all my students to enjoy reading as she did, I will have met my goal. It makes me smile to think that some of my other classroom books are probably floating around out there somewhere.
Maybe they’ll be at the next garage sale.