Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Asking for Parent Input

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In the first school district that employed me, parents were invited to evaluate teachers. Comments, suggestions, and even complaints noted on the input form were included in the end-of-the-year wrap up conversation/evaluation with the principal. As you might have guessed, many teachers dreaded sending out the forms, as it seemed only the parents on either side of the opinion spectrum were inclined to respond: parents thrilled with their child's year, and parents *ahem*, out for blood.

I'll admit, the first few years of teaching, I was overly sensitive to criticism. Even a kindly phrased suggestion felt like a stab through the heart, only because it reminded me that no matter my intent and effort, I could have done something better. Swallowing my pride and allowing myself some "be-kind-to-yourself" time (blotting away tears on occasion), I realized that no matter how well prepared I was after growing up a teacher's kid, having attended the schools that I did, and completing the teacher preparation program at my university, I didn't know it all. There's no way I could.

I found that my most successful students benefited not only from having spent time in my classroom, but reaped the rewards gleaned from the relationships that I had built with not only them but their families. Regular communication, an open-door policy, humor, tracking down the resources that parents asked for, and opportunities for parents to volunteer made it possible for me to really know my students, their needs, and their interests. Parents unfamiliar with our school curriculum and expectations were welcomed into the formal school culture and realized the part that they could play in their child's success.

I created a parent input form after leaving my first district so that I could continue to improve my teaching practice.  I'm certainly no longer a novice teacher, but I have come to find that I'm only able to improve continually if I refrain from resting on my laurels.  Self-improvement matters to me.  Parents are invited to rate my communication, developmentally appropriate practice, our learning environment, and my partnership with their family. Completing the form is strictly voluntary and anonymous: parents don't have to sign the forms and may return them to the office without my knowledge. At the end of the week, I'll be given the forms to review so I can plan my summer professional development accordingly.

Yes, I take a deep breath before opening them. And then I read them, reflect upon the feedback, and use the information to do what I can to improve for my students' benefit.

The atta-girl comments help, and I'm happy to say that the majority of the tears I've shed over the years have fallen after reading the kindest praise. Suggestions I've been given or questions I've been asked have offered me direction and an appreciation for the diverse perceptions and expectations of the families with whom I work.

Here's what I send out:


Parent Input Form
Kindergarten
Teacher: ________________ Year: 2009-2010

Please check the type of contact you have had with this teacher during the school year (check all that apply):
_____ Parent/Teacher Conferences
_____Open House/Know Your School Night
_____ Mid-Quarter Reports (Kindergarten Data Sheets)
_____ Telephone Conversations
_____ E-mail
_____ Notes to/from Teacher
_____Classroom Visits/Volunteerism

Please indicate if you agree, disagree, or aren’t sure. The teacher:
____________ Facilitates, monitors and assesses student learning.
____________ Provides appropriate individual assistance to my child.
____________ Provides curriculum-based and developmentally appropriate homework.
____________ Maintains a classroom in which my child feels physically and emotionally   safe.
____________ Is respectful of our family’s culture and the social expectations we have for our child.
____________Regularly communicates with me in a clear way about my child’s attendance, behavior, academic progress, and curriculum topics and objectives.
____________ Solicits feedback and welcomes my ideas.
____________ Responds to my concerns.
____________ Provides appropriate suggestions so that I can help my child at home.

*****

How do you feel about parent involvement in teacher evaluation?  Are there other areas where you would find parent feedback helpful?  Feel free to contribute your thoughts, feelings and ideas in the comments section.

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7 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading through that because I can say that for the majority of my parents it would be all positive and the few that would have complaints would ahve complaints right back from me.. ha

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  2. Wow this is what makes you a fantastic teacher! After a year with little to no communication with the 1st grade teacher, I have a much better appreciating for your approach to education. AND it is a much better environment for the child, teacher and family!
    My question is can I "borrow" the form and submit it un-requested to this year's teacher? :-)

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  3. Anonymous9:31 PM

    I like the idea. I especially like the first question about PARENT involvement. In the past, it seems like the parents that complain the most are the ones that I saw on "Meet the Teacher" night in August and haven't seen since then! They ignore my notes, phone calls, and emails....but they are the first to complain about me and the school. :)

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  4. Thanks for sharing this! I am always sensitive about 'feedback' based on a very negative experience I had in my first year when parents requested that their child not be placed with another first year teacher after she had me...I was really hurt by the comment and felt upset because even though I was a new teacher, I felt like I did a good job...it gets better as I gain more experience but I still think it's an area of weakness for me because I am sensitive and want to please everyone. I really like your survey and I think it's great that you invite feedback!

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  5. What a good idea! Its my first year, and I would love to know what they thought!

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  6. I liked the ideas and the part where you said "self improvements matters to me." It speaks volumes about your hunger for knowledge and feedback. It tells me you are ambitious about your growth and that the teachers who don't think on these lines, lose out on building confident relationships as well as their own growth.

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  7. Getting feedback can be a little nerve wracking, but good for you for being able to find constructive ways to evaluate and improve your teaching! I'm sure it helps both you, and your students.

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As always, thank you for your comments, tips, suggestions and questions!