Vignette #7 – When a second grade teacher starts communicating more regularly with parents about expectations around the behavior and social culture of her classroom, she finds that this team approach yields better results for improving student behavior and outlook in the classroom.
In her fourth year of teaching third graders, Christina Mathews admits that figuring out how to manage classroom behavior has been a learning curve. She shares that she spent much of her first year contacting parents after behavior incidents, and that the conversations were often tense and unproductive. While she realizes that the incidents and her responses were magnified by her lack of experience, she asserts that the year ended with her vowing to “get a handle” on classroom management. Instead of dreading those end of day/week calls to the same parents again, Christina hopes to take charge of her classroom culture by pro-actively seeking out parental support, especially with her more challenging students. Inspired by a more seasoned colleague who successfully uses the “responsive classroom” approach to discipline, Christina applies for a PD opportunity to get trained over the summer. With new tools in hand for managing her wide range of students and needs, Christina approaches the year with excitement (instead of trepidation) for the challenges ahead.
With a more solid sense of how she wishes to establish the culture in her classroom of twenty-six eight and nine year olds, Christina admits that it is easier to reach out to parents for support now that her expectations for behavior are clear and compelling. In her welcome letter and blog, Christina outlines the goals of a “responsive classroom” and shares information about responsive classroom strategies such as “interactive modeling” and “positive teacher language.” In her hopes to build a classroom based on mutual respect and understanding, she sets the tone on day one by welcoming students and parents into the classroom for a sample morning meeting. This seemingly simple “meet and greet” exercise where students (and their parents) are encouraged to shake hands, make eye contact and offer words of welcome, sets a precedent for how she expects her students to start their days with each other and their teachers. Before the parents exit her classroom for a school-wide coffee meeting with the principal, Christina takes the opportunity to ask families to consider how they “meet and greet” each other in the morning and when they reconvene at the end of the day. It sparks a brief conversation that Christina will use throughout the year when she works to make links between supporting healthy behavior at home and at school.
Based on information she receives from parent feedback in a “get to know you” survey, Christina sends out notes to all families outlining ways that they can help support their children’s success in school. These initial outreaches are upbeat in nature and help to affirm the positive connections that Christina is hoping to establish with her students and their families. She finds the parents appreciative of hearing about their children’s early success and open to putting plans in place to assure ongoing progress. For some families, this comes in the form of simple weekly “check-ins.” For others, Christina begins to develop more specific daily “behavior goal” charts that can be used at school and home. By communicating early and often with parents, Christina asserts that she feels empowered by a thoughtful, team approach to supporting the students in her classroom. With a developing classroom culture that is propelled by respect and connection, Christina further shares that she has much more energy to meet the academic goals of her classroom.
- This short article on “School-Home Communication Strategies” from Responsive Classroom discusses the responsive classroom discipline approach and offers various ways to communicate with families about behavioral expectations. By using various methods of communication to describe how expected behaviors are taught and how staff responds to misbehavior, the author shares that teachers are likely to reach more parents.
- These short videos share Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting ideas, including the “one minute morning greeting.” These videos could be posted or shared during conferences to give parents a sense of the behavioral expectations in their students’ classrooms.
- Daily Behavior Form – A brief “why, when, & how” for using a daily behavior form to help students, and communicate better with parents.
- This short video shows how a teacher creates a “positive classroom culture” by having clear learning and behavioral expectations for her classroom. By sharing this video with the families of her students, the teacher could create a powerful link between school and home.
- “Targeting Home-School Collaboration for Students with ADHD” outlines how to involve parents with students’ assessment and behavior plans, how to communicate about monitoring medication, and how to help coordinate homework between school and home. The article also connects to other resources and references to support the home-school link for students with ADHD.