Ms. Marsh – Fostering Two-way Communication with Parents

I am an English Language Development teacher in St. Charles, MO. For the last three years, I have been able to work with every fifth grade English Language Learner in our district. In my first year teaching, to be honest, I only communicated with families when there was a big behavior problem with a student and for Parent Teacher Conferences. There was this void in communication and partnership that was not healthy to student learning. The families didn’t fully know what their kids were learning or how they were growing. I felt helpless to communicate effectively with my students’ families because I wasn’t fluent in their home languages.

Suzy_Marsh_blog_post
Ms. Marsh
ELD Teacher, MO

I am an English Language Development teacher in St. Charles, MO. For the last three years, I have been able to work with every fifth grade English Language Learner in our district. In my first year teaching, to be honest, I only communicated with families when there was a big behavior problem with a student and for Parent Teacher Conferences. There was this void in communication and partnership that was not healthy to student learning. The families didn’t fully know what their kids were learning or how they were growing. I felt helpless to communicate effectively with my students’ families because I wasn’t fluent in their home languages.

In my second year of teaching, I was impelled to find a way to communicate more regularly with my students’ families. That’s when I learned about TalkingPoints from another ELD teacher in my district. I loved the fact that families could receive translated SMS text messages; they did not need to have an app to communicate. I also loved how you could schedule messages to send ahead of time translated into all of the languages I needed. After using TalkingPoints, I immediately realized how much more personal communication could be. I no longer felt distant from my families. The families would contact me themselves, fostering a healthier standard of two-way communication. This was just what I had been looking for.

My favorite TalkingPoints moment to date happened last school year. I had a student who would get really down on himself for missing school. He only missed school if he overslept and missed the bus, and he had no other transportation options to get to school. One day he was absent and I sent a TalkingPoints message to his mom and asked if he was sick. She said that he was not; that she had fallen asleep after a long night of work, causing him to also oversleep and miss the bus. After talking with our Assistant Principal, I asked the mom, “Our Assistant Principal can drive to your house and bring him to school. Is this okay with you?” She could not believe we would offer this for her son. She happily gave us permission. Before I knew it, Mr. Joyner and I were heading out to bring my student to school. I texted the mom to let her know we were outside. He came running out with his backpack. He kept saying, “I don’t understand why you would do this for me.” I told him that his job for the day was to figure out why we would leave school to come get him and bring him to school.

Before he left for the bus that day, he came up to me and said, “I know why now. I know you care about me. That’s why you would come get me. And one day, I’m going to learn something at school that will change my life. I will learn things at school that will help me become a SWAT officer (his dream job).” I was pretty astounded by this philosophical fifth grader. He got it. That was why.

This school year, my co-teachers and I started using TalkingPoints from the start of the year with all of our families, English and non-English speaking. While there haven’t been any movie-worthy moments this year, we’ve found that communication with everyone has been more open, engaging, and empowering for the families. I send encouraging messages home, links to short YouTube videos so the parents can see special events at our school, and notes about school happenings. The biggest surprise for me is when the parents turn around and encourage me back. I am so thankful for the inviting atmosphere TalkingPoints has allowed us to learn in this year.

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