I had such great success Rethinking Meet the Teacher event and I keep coming back to the question What’s it going to be like to be a learner in this classroom?; I did some rethinking about working with parents. I enjoy going to Curriculum Nights as a parent for three reasons. I want to see the space and teacher that will be working with my child and I hope to learn about the teacher personally. I enjoy learning about the topic or material covered for the year and I get really interested when they mention anything about the how we learn.
Taking my learning from the Teaching for Creativity Institute this summer, I decided to engage my parents in a creative task. I prepared eight brown paper bags with recyclable materials. Parents were around the room; some standing and some sitting. I asked them to come together in small groups around the tables and introduced the material bags, task, and time limit. They looked at me hesitantly. The task was to decide on a problem they had they had and make something to fix it.
The room slowly became a buzz and I “worked the party” discovering this work had more benefits than I thought.
- Parents introduced themselves to each other and identified who their child was.
- They shared ideas for problems and were validated for their thinking.
- They laughed and giggled.
- They learned how hard it can be to get started.
- They wanted to work longer to produce their ideas.
- They were hesitant to share and then enjoyed that step.
- They wanted to make something “real” and struggled with prototypes.
- Parents shared more excitement than usual for our year of learning together.
- I felt more relaxed during the evening.
- I felt more engaged with the parents than just presenting information to them.
The night was a bigger success than I thought and I decided the biggest benefit was I had spent time in developing a parent community for our classroom. We know our work isn’t just with students and I’ve had parents join us on and off every year I’ve been teaching. This evening felt different and I think it’s because I had them engaged and being a learner, like their child will be this year.