The Freshman Transition Network

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Essential Components of an Freshman Transition Program - Part 6 - Parent/Teacher Contact

This series of posts on the Essential Components of a Freshman Transition Program is based on ideas found in The Ninth Grade Opportunity: Transforming Schools from the Bottom Up by Scott Habeeb, Ray Moore, and Alan Seibert.

There are many different approaches that one can take to properly transition freshmen into the high school setting. Some schools are trying the academy approach. Because freshman academies have some inherent weaknesses many schools are going with the departmentalized approach. Schools transition freshmen on 4x4 block schedules, A/B days, 7 period days, 6 period days, and hybrid schedules. Transitioning freshmen occurs in small schools and large schools, urban schools and rural schools, schools that are struggling and schools that find benchmarks like AYP easy to reach.

The key to successfully transitioning freshmen lies in several essential components. While these components might look different in different schools/communities/classrooms, they all should be present in order to meet the needs of 9th graders.

Each blog post in this series of will focus on a specific example of those essential components.

Post 1 and Post 2 in this series both dealt with the topic of teaming teachers. Post 3 in this series dealt with the importance of Standardizing Expectations.  Post 4 dealt with using your standardized expectations to enhance your Classroom Leadership.  Part 5 was about using a team approach to effectively teach organizational skills   This post will focus on how a team of teachers can work together to enhance Parent/Teacher Contact.

Let's start this post by making sure we are in touch with reality.  There is no way that a team of teachers - even the greatest team that ever existed - can magically create a scenario in which every single parent communicates with the school properly and provides sufficient support for their child.  I have worked with schools who have tried teaming and reported that they still have a frustration with parents who are not living up to their perceived responsibilities.
Let me be very clear: Teaming is not the answer to the problem of poor parenting.  What teaming does is allow teachers to more effectively communicate with parents, and it gives parents a unified point of contact with the school.
For example, previous blog posts have discussed the importance of a team planning period.  Obviously, a time to meet daily is a great benefit for the teachers involved.  However, this is also an incredible communication tool to provide parents.  For a parent to know that he can meet with an entire team of his child's teachers at a given time any day of the week is a wonderful convenience.
This is how teams of teachers must think: "What can we do as a team to make communication channels more available, more user-friendly, more convenient, and, therefore, more effective for parents?"  Here are some ideas to consider:
  • Create a team website: Google Sites makes this free and VERY easy to do
  • Post all team homework assignments in one place online
  • Send messages directly to parents with a team Twitter account 
  • Make a team Facebook page that parents can "like" and then follow
  • Compose and send a weekly team email with updates about school and major assignments
  • Instead of a weekly email, create a weekly blog that can then be tweeted and posted to your Facebook site
  • Use a team Google Calendar to post the team's homework assignments as an event: Parents & students can subscribe and/or the calendar can be embedded in a website.

Many of these ideas are the type that teachers typically say sound great but take too much time to implement or learn how to do well.  Here's where once again the Power of Four - the strength of a team - comes into play.  You will be meeting regularly and during that time you can learn how to use tools such as these.  During that time you can create your Google Calendar or Facebook site.  Perhaps one person on the team might be in charge of the Twitter & Facebook accounts while another person on the team composes the weekly blog post.


Increased and improved communication is a major way that a team of teachers can utilize their collective strengths to make the transition to the high school a much smoother event for all involved - parents and students.  Do you have any ideas or thoughts to share?  What has worked well at your school?

For more information on teaming teachers to transition freshmen check out The Ninth Grade Opportunity: Transforming Schools from the Bottom Up.

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