One of the loveliest parts of last summer’s GCSE results day was the number of emails I received from parents celebrating the success of their children and passing on their thanks. This only happened because throughout the last year we made a concerted effort as a department to get parents involved and make them part of the process of raising expectations. We are lucky that the parents of our students value education and want their children to succeed at school. This is what we are doing to build on these relationships.
We have started to record evidence of excellent work. Students come to me with their books or their teachers bring their work to me to share it. I record it in a journal and take a picture of it. We can then share this with students to show them our expectations and to critique and also share it and discuss in department meetings. The other thing it allows me to do is to send an email home with a copy of the work to pass on our praise.
One of the few times we see parents face to face is the annual parents evening. Over the last year I have tried to move away from simply discussing the progress they have made to the changes they need to make to improve further. Importantly we also discuss how their parents can help with this. We hand out a simple list of things that can be done to become better geographers from watching the news to discussing the things they see when out and about. We also run a blog containing news articles and questions that students and their parents can read and discuss.
Last week’s Parents’ Evening we tried something new – an idea from the excellent New Middle Leaders Handbook by James Ashmore and Caroline Clay. We displayed examples of excellent geography work in the area we were seated in for parents and students to look at and directed them there after our conversation to see what they could do to improve. It also gave a real boost to those many students who had their work displayed.
One such pupil was a girl who throughout the previous year was completely disengaged in her education and falling behind. This year she has completely turned it around and produced some wonderful work that has shown a lot of understanding. The look of pride in her face when her dad saw her work up there and asked if he could take a photo of it was enough to melt even this cynics heart.
I try whenever I can to make a few positive phone calls home each week to talk about those pupils who have really impressed or those that have shown real progress. I also try to call home early if a pupil shows signs of falling behind or showing a poor attitude to learning. I make sure that even then the tone stays positive and focused on what we can do to offer support.
Widening the Team
Proud parents, proud and happy children, lovely emails; these would be reasons enough to do these things but they also serve a wider purpose. I know that when a parent gets an email about their child’s geography work they will ask them about it. They will ask them about other work. They will ask them about Geography in the future. They will encourage them to attend an intervention session if it is needed. They will remember to discuss something in the news that relates to their child’s work. The parents become a part of our team.