Building New Partnerships with Parents through TalkingPoints
Ms. Rufenacht is an ESOL teacher in Fayette County, Georgia. She had learned about TalkingPoints from her district’s ESOL department last fall and has actively used it to communicate and build partnerships with her students’ parents, regardless of the languages they speak. Ms. Rufenacht shares about the positive impact TalkingPoints has had on her, her students and parents this school year.
While teaching at my current school for the past three years, I realized that my students’ parents not only have to overcome a language barrier but lack convenient access to personal computers. Our school has increasingly shifted all our communication to email and online portals. With this shift, the ELL parents found themselves challenged to interact fully with their child’s school.
Then I implemented Talking Points.
Integrating TalkingPoints into my teaching practice has profoundly impacted my students and their families. Parents repeatedly tell me how much they appreciate the use of TalkingPoints, but I have been most surprised by how much it has benefitted me personally as well.
I learned about TalkingPoints from our county’s ESOL department and have been using it every day. Currently, I am engaged in two-way conversations with all of my parents through TalkingPoints. Involving parents has given me increased leverage with my ELL students who had learned that it can be difficult to contact their parents, due to language barriers. I have used TalkingPoints to praise student accomplishments, invite parents to school events, host parent English classes, and arrange in-person meetings. The ways to use TalkingPoints are endless, and I’m sure I will continue to discover more ways to use it to engage my parents.
One specific story comes to mind when I consider how TalkingPoints has supported me in the development of a positive classroom culture and my students’ success. After teaching some of my students for two full school years, I was still struggling to develop meaningful contact with their parents. I was leaving multiple voicemails, sending home printed notes, and writing emails but received little to no interaction in response. This school year, I began sending these students’ families messages via TalkingPoints and things changed. I now actively engage with these parents in their native languages via text message. This positive communication led to increased attendance at in-person conferences and events. Meeting my students’ parents in person was pivotal in turning around my students’ academic achievement. As students observe the partnership between their home and school, they are working harder in the classroom and growing academically.
A few days after a school event where I met many parents in person for the first time, I went to eat at a local restaurant. This particular restaurant is my favorite and to be honest, I probably dine there excessively. During this specific visit, I came to find out that some of my students’ parents had been serving me my favorite food, at my favorite restaurant, for years! Now on my regular visits, I get to continue to develop relationships with my students’ families.
This story is only one example of the positive benefits of using TalkingPoints. Being able to access parents in their native language, with easily accessible technology is empowering to students, parents, and teachers.
I look forward to continuing to use TalkingPoints to develop meaningful relationships with my students, and if I’m not in my classroom, I am likely enjoying my favorite food, lovingly served by some of my new partners in education.