Tuesday, July 29, 2014

First and Lasting Impressions #ptchat

As our journey together on #ptcamp comes to an end, and our "cabin" groups are finishing a week together, one common theme keeps coming to my mind, first and lasting impressions.  Let me explain why this seems to be the foremost take away from my experiences over the last five weeks.  But first, a brief story about our latest 8th grade graduation and the short speech I shared with our 8th graders, their families and friends, the staff members in attendance, and all others who attended the ceremony.

My message was about first and last impressions.  The last impressions were about how the 8th graders grew as learners and became better and more mature people during their time in Merton.  I will remember seeing their growth and will do my best to keep those positive images close.  The first impressions were about the 8th graders move to the high school, whichever one they will be attending, and how those first impressions really say a lot about someone.

If I could share my message again, I would change it to "First and Lasting Impressions."  I realize now that our first impressions must be followed up by lasting impressions.  Many of my new Voxer friends not only "talk the talk" but they "walk the walk".  In an effort not to forget anyone or their impactful stories, I won't mention any names, but their stories will stay with me for a long time to come.  These impressive educators have developed an atmosphere in their schools where everyone is respected, opinions are shared, and students are kept in the forefront of all that they do.

It is now my passion and focus to open up our school to better and deeper family engagement.  I know that I will "steal" some ideas from the group and I hope that a few of my thoughts and ideas have resonated with those whom I have learned from all summer.  Here are my first steps to improve the engagement of all of our families.

  • Develop a family engagement committee (staff and families) that will work together to improve the culture and atmosphere of our school to make it more welcoming.
  • Provide opportunities for families to share their time and talents with our students.
  • Be intentional about having conversations with families when they visit school for conferences, concerts, sporting events, or dropping off or picking up their children during the school day.
The first step is something new for our school.  The second two steps are things that I need to improve upon.  We have had families share their time and talents in the past, but there is so much more that I am sure they would be willing to do for our school.  Honestly, some of my conversations are shallow "How are you doing?" types of conversations.  When families come into our school, I need to be intentional, asking for feedback even and especially when it might be difficult to hear, to make our school better.

So now I need to begin, before the school year even starts.  I will develop a family smore for each grade level, sharing information about each grade level and the staff who will be working with their children, to be sent out next Friday.  I will also be interacting with as many families as I can during our Open House and working on finding ways to support them during the school year.  I will also ask them how they might be able to support our school as well.  My hope is that these efforts, in concert with families and staff, will help our school become a partnership school.  With the staff and families in our school, I'm sure that we will get there.