Last year, Ms. Eganhouse was an elementary school teacher and building technology specialist in Des Moines, Iowa. She had heard about TalkingPoints from her graduate school course on building strong school communities and decided to try it out, because around 40% of her students’ families don’t speak English at home. In this blog post, Ms. Eganhouse shares how she set up a weekly routine of sending positive messages home through TalkingPoints that helped increase both parent and student engagement in her classroom.
The level and frequency of interaction I had with my English-speaking parents versus my non-English speaking parents were different due to language barriers. Unlike with my English-speaking parents, I wasn’t able to communicate with my non-English speaking parents on an individual level. When I heard about TalkingPoints, I decided to give it a try to see if it could help bridge this communication gap.
I signed up for TalkingPoints and decided to send positive messages or “brag notes” home every week to different parents highlighting their children’s behavior or progress in class. Parents appreciated receiving these messages and it felt great to be able to send them to all of my students’ families. My students quickly realized that I was in communication with their parents and got excited about the positive notes I was sending home. We would celebrate as a class whenever a student earned a brag note for someone. Sometimes things get busy and I wouldn’t remember. My students were quick to remind me and sometimes would nominate other students to receive a brag note home. Celebrating each other’s successes and sharing the positive news with parents became part of our classroom culture and weekly routine that helped improve student and parent engagement.
In addition to the brag notes, I would also send home announcements and reminders about classroom/school events to keep all parents informed and engaged. Many school-wide communications were sent in English and Spanish, but classroom specific communications were not translated. Parents appreciated receiving text messages from me in their home languages informing them of what’s happening at school.
I used TalkingPoints this summer as an Instructional Coach for summer school. It was so easy to be able to send a quick text to other parents about anything. A parent used TalkingPoints the other day to let me know they were running late, and I was able to get to the building to help let them in so they could attend summer school that day.
I am transitioning into an Instructional Coach role this school year and plan on helping my colleagues use TalkingPoints to engage all of their students’ families in building a positive classroom culture!