Monday, January 19, 2015

Parent Teacher Conferences - 1969 vs. Today

 Have you seen this cartoon before? I saw it again the other day and thought it might make for an interesting discussion in light of parent teacher conferences that are upon us for the second quarter. It is fairly popular amongst educational circles, and it is often used to discuss the change in responsibility in education today. Rather than asking the child why he has poor grades, parents are questioning the academics of teachers and schools.

As educators, we might first be on the defense. How can parents question an adult over a ten-year-old? Yet, perhaps we can empathize with them on their point. Failing schools and empty budgets lead us as educators to know that materials and extracurricular teachers have been lost over the years, and those responsibilities have been handed to classroom teachers. Therefore, we may understand why a parent may raise concerns.

However, this cartoon may lead to a deeper concern. In the first half of this cartoon, the child is the one that is supposed to learn from his poor grades. In the second half of this cartoon, the teacher is supposed to learn from the poor grades. Didn't the teacher already attend school? Why are their grades being called into question? Who is really learning in this situation?

The child benefits when we can explain our methods to the parents to help improve those grades. The child learns when we can give parents simple strategies at home to benefit the student. The child benefits when their is a good relationship between the parents and the teacher. As you sit down with parents at conferences in the coming weeks, may God bless your communication that it may benefit His child!


Sunday, January 11, 2015

National Lutheran Schools Week

NLSW. National Lutheran Schools Week. Growing up, this was a week of great excitement. We dressed up in special outfits, had a special chapel, and had special events at school. Since I teach in an area where Lutheran schools are sparse, National Lutheran Schools Week was of great importance. My students were able to connect with students like themselves, and I was able to share the great benefits of Lutheran schools.

This year, the theme of National Lutheran Schools Week is service. I am learning about the wonderful ways that this staff is serving The Lord. They care for their students daily. They provide them with a great education. We meet monthly to sing along with others at Lyrical Lambs, a time where students sing praise songs and make cards for others. Our students serve the community through various service projects. We serve The Lord by preparing worship for others.

During National Lutheran Schools Week, we have the opportunity to learn about how missionaries serve others. For the last few weeks, we have been discussing this in our classroom as we prepare for the Lutheran Hour Ministries Online Mission Trips to Latvia. This week, a student left my class. As she was leaving, she said, "Miss Engelhard, may I have that bank and backpack tag?" She was referring to the materials we would receive after watching the mission trip in a few weeks. Lutheran schools are a place where kids are learning about Jesus, and that was her takeaway from the six months in my classroom.

National Lutheran Schools Week is more than the dress up days and the events. It is an opportunity for Lutheran schools to come together and celebrate our strengths. We can collaborate with Lutheran schools around the world. Most importantly, we can be strengthened by The Lord for the students we serve!

As you celebrate Lutheran schools in the coming weeks, remember that Jesus is the reason for the season! God's Blessings to you this week!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Build a Better Open House

Welcome to the season of open houses! In Austin, open houses are held as earlier as November. I would encourage you to ask a few of the schools in your area about the timing of their open houses. In the marketing world, the three p's were often discussed: product, price, and promotion (Vaugh, 2014). With the overwhelming amount of advertising in today's world, there is a rise in marketing suspicion. Therefore, schools are now focusing on following:
  • How well do perspective parents know your school?
  • How well do perspective parents like your school?
  • How well do perspective parents trust your school?
Who would you like to come to your open house? School families should be ambassadors for your schools that are involved and invested in education. As educators, it is important to understand  and provide for the needs, pains, problems, frustrations, and fears of perspective parents. Schools should be building trust through education and evidence.

How can one do this? Consider using the following strategies prior, during, and after an open house:

Prior to the Open House
  1. Family Referral Cards - Ask families to create written, audio, or visual stories about their connection and experience at your school. Create a unique URL for the family, such as: www.school.org/lastname. Give the family a business card with the link and open houses dates to share. Share the link on social media and track the data on your website. Categorize your content by family type - Transfers from public schools, private schools, homeschooling, and new families.
  2. Written, Audio or Visual Content - Provide content for perspective parents that answer their needs to build trust. This might include content from parenting classes, raising disciples, or social media with teens.
During the Open House
  1. Invite Other Talent - Host your open house during an art show, science fair, talent show, sporting event, or community event. By pairing an event, you can increase your attendance.
  2. Childcare - Provide dress up clothes for a keepsake photo, take a scavenger hunt around the campus, and make their time something they will talk about later!
  3. First Impressions - Walk through your school like an outsider, and create signage that is inviting and clear. Add music, balloons, and flowers for a welcoming touch.
  4. Engage the Senses - Rent a popcorn machine, provide cookies from a local bakery or make them onsite, provide pictures of your students on poster board, touch up the paint, roll up the garden hose, and create audio testimonials in the classrooms.
After the Open House
  1. Help, Not Hype - Parents should leave with something of value. Offer more than just your brochure. Invite the local high school to discuss funding a private high school experience.
  2.  Follow-up - Create a video or slideshow of the open house for social media, create an album of photos for parents to download, and request information from those who could not attend.
Whatever you choose, make sure your open house is an attraction, not a distraction. The aforementioned strategies should create a welcoming environment, not a circus! Share your strategies in the comment section below!

God's blessings on your week!

Vaughn, R. (2014). Nine ideas for your next open house. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/114737460