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Back to School Love for Educators, Students and Families

By ParentSquare Director of Customer Advocacy Amber Heffner

Amber Heffner

It’s hard to believe that September is here already! Many of my educator friends have been back to school for a month and some are just gearing up. But one thing I have found in common with all of them, is their continued unyielding excitement to be back. I was recently reflecting back on my days in the classroom and pulling out the ever faithful resource The First Days of School: How to be an Effective Teacher by Harry Wong. I would have been lost without that book! 

You have the power to inspire curiosity, build confidence and ignite the imaginations of the young minds that fill your classrooms. Your ability to create a nurturing and engaging environment will undoubtedly make a lasting impact, shaping not only the academic achievements but also the character and aspirations of your students. 

One of the most important aspects of being an educator in supporting your students is to effectively engage with their families. I’ll never forget my first parent-teacher conference. I was at a small school in rural Illinois and my peers were preparing me for everything that could / would go wrong. I was prepared for the worst. After going through my entire Rocky pre-fight warm-up, and having Survivor on replay in my head for every single conference, I remember thinking after it was all over, “Well…I think I need to figure out how to keep in touch with these families more than just twice a year” (and this was before email!). 

Growing up in a small rural farming community where my family owned a grain elevator, I learned a lot about customer service and it was ingrained in me about the important value of how you treat customers. After my first parent-teacher conference, I realized that the families of my students were my customers and I needed to build relationships with them as much as I did my students. 

So whether you are a month into back to school or just gearing up for that exciting first day after the holiday, it’s never too late to focus on building those relationships with your students AND their families. If you are looking for some great ideas on how to do this, below are some resources to help you out!

15 Essential Messages Teachers Should Share with Families to Enhance Student Success

A resource chock full of ideas, templates and examples, from our team at ParentSquare. I cannot express how AMAZING this resource is…whether you use ParentSquare or not. It even includes some bonus material from our Founder Anu Vaid!

Tips for Engaging Families and the Community

An oldie but a goodie! Retired superintendent (and upcoming ParentSquare #SquareCamp Keynote Speaker) Joe Sanfelippo co-authored this blog with Tony Sinanis, superintendent of Herricks Public Schools. Joe and Tony share specific examples of ways they engage families and their school communities, which include the use of social media. I love their thoughts on celebrating students and sharing information with our families and communities that can shift mindsets. 

The time has come for us to take control of the stories being shared about our learning spaces – we must seize the opportunity to be the chief storytellers of our classrooms, schools and districts so we can spotlight all the incredible things happening in our schools!

Your Back-to-School Supply List for School Communicators with Andrea Gribble

A fun podcast with Andrea Gribble (another ParentSquare #SquareCamp Keynote Speaker!) Andrea breaks down her five items that you need as the school year begins: energy, grace, joy, delegation and boundaries. She shares specific advice and suggestions on how to have all of these not only at the beginning of the school year, but throughout! She also shares specific tools and ideas on being storytellers that engage your families and celebrate your students.

Back to School Week Celebration

National PTA has curated a variety of fresh ideas, tools and program opportunities. They celebrate “Back-to-School Week” Sept. 11-15!  National PTA’s Back-to-School Week will celebrate a new school year for families and school communities across the nation Sept. 11-15. During the week, the organization will share information and resources to help PTA leaders, families and teachers plan their school year. I love that they have their resources broken into these three categories:

Don’t Erase That Mistake

A timely article from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) by Jennifer Mangels discussing the importance of owning mistakes. Creating a culture of “fail forward” creates a culture of understanding and empathy. Help families understand the importance of this culture – “By embracing mistake-making, students can better understand their own thinking and take ownership of the learning process.” And I love the visual of how this next quote can give students perspective – “I invite students to put a heart around the error as a reminder that mistakes are important to the learning process.” How empowering is that!? And don’t forget how impactful this will be on building that relationship with your parents. I know my support of my kid’s teachers was certainly a lot higher for those who took time to help my kids learn from what they did not always get right.

Let’s Move from Admiring Problems to Creating Solutions

Another inspiring ASCD article by PJ Caposey. If you don’t follow PJ on social media or have not read one of his books, you should. In this article, PJ talks about the importance of our narrative and perspective on the work we do as educators everyday. “…for our public education system to be strong, it needs educators to be both champions and cheerleaders for the great things we are doing for kids each and every day.” There is no better way to connect with parents and build a relationship with them than to be their kid’s cheerleader! And truth be told, I could share story after story of educators who impacted my own kids by being their cheerleader…especially at times when maybe I was not.

Thinking of each and every one of you as the 2023-2024 school year kicks off! We love learning how you communicate with your families and build relationships with them. Tag us @ParentSquare with your ideas and stories.

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