As I thought about all of the relationships that we build as educators, I also thought about all of the ways that I connect with students, colleagues, and families. Although this is not an all inclusive list of communication tools, it is a list that has helped me connect with people in my school, my community, my state, and beyond. Special shoutouts go to Chris Reuter (@chris_reuter) and Mark Flynn (@m4flynn), former Merton colleagues, for their influence on my connectedness using Twitter and my #WIAmigos friends, Curt Rees (@CurtRees) and Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ) for furthering my connections using Voxer. Now on to the ways I connect with students, colleagues, and families.
Face to face
I hope this doesn't need an explanation. Sit down with people. Walk with them from spot to spot. Eat lunch with them. Visit their classroom or invite them in for a discussion in your office. Have Principal Chats. Attend PTO meetings and family conferences. Walk around during Open House. Go to concerts and sporting events. I really feel that face to face is the most important of our tools to connect.
Phone calls are the next best thing to face to face meetings. These can also be done at a time that is convenient for both individuals. I use phone calls to speak with families about student progress and behavior, but probably not as often as I should. I also spent a full day calling home to families of students who were recognized for being good kids. The silence at the end of the line when I said I was calling from my office with their child makes me want to do this more to change the perception of phone calls from the Principal's office.
This is probably how I do my most communicating with colleagues and families. I really would like to limit the use of email, but the ease of using this tool makes it difficult to get away from. I'm rarely at "inbox zero", but I'm able to keep my inbox to a manageable number. I also have a rule that if I receive an email that is longer than one paragraph, I invite the person in to meet with me or make a phone call. I find that writing a long response can sometimes muddy the message and leads to many more emails.
Twitter (@posickj, @mertonint, #mertonint)
Thanks to Chris, Mark, Curt, and Jessica, Twitter has helped me grow and connect as an educator in ways I can hardly explain. I have connected with educators from all over the United States and a couple of other countries, too. The wealth of information and ideas I can find on Twitter at any time of the day really blows my mind. I have found that joining chats (#satchat on Saturdays at 6:30AM CST and #edprep (shameless plug for a chat Eric Rodriguez (@erod129) and I co-moderate) every other Tuesday at 7:00PM CST are two of my favorites) has helped expand the scope of those educators I learn from and with every day.
Facebook (Merton Intermediate School Facebook account)
I'm pretty new to Facebook, but I do have a school facebook account as that's where I find most of our families are connected. Sometimes I post pictures but I also post daily student announcements and weekly family emails.
This is one of my favorite communication tools. I use it with colleagues and haven't reached out to families yet. Voxer allows you to text, send photos and videos, and, most important to me, voice responses. It's like Twitter with an extra feature. It is a private community, too, so you can invite individuals to join a group or just communicate with one individual at a time. It's asynchronous meaning you can use it when you have time, a great feature that allows conversations to last for a long time.
This is a great tool to share stories, pictures, and videos with colleagues and families. I use this in place of the paper newsletter we used to send home. Here's a link to my smores for this school year. As I am someone who takes a lot of pictures during the week, I can share the photos I've posted from Instagram here, too.
I use Instagram to post pictures of the great things going on around our school. Instagram is one of the newest tools that I'm using and there are a number of students who follow this account, too.
Remind is another way that I connect with families. Remind provides text messages instead of emails. I've found that parents might not read all of their emails, but they will read a text when it comes to their phone.
This app (if this then that) allows me to post pictures and text to Instagram which then posts to both Twitter and Facebook. One post equals three posts, in reality. This really cuts down on the time it takes to post to social media.
I use Google hangouts to connect with colleagues and have also connected with families if they are unable to join us for conferences. I use blogger (right now, for example) to reflect and write my thoughts as well as for our weekly staff nuts and bolts. You can look through the list of blogs on the right side of this blog if you'd like to see some examples of our staff nuts and bolts.
I know that there are many other was to connect, but these are my "go to" methods. There are a lot of them listed, but the variety is powerful. Not all of the people you connect with will use all of these tools, but they will use at least one of them. Let them choose the ones they are most comfortable with and you will build stronger connections with your students, colleagues, and families.
I'd also like to share this with you. I don't follow anyone on our school Twitter or Facebook accounts except for our PTO. That's just my way of making sure that I have more control over what appears on our timeline. If you'd like to connect about any of these communication options, I'd be more than happy to discuss any of them with you. And if you'd like to meet face to face, that would be pretty cool, too.