#PTHVP14: Parent Teacher Home Visit Conference (Part One)

Two days into the conference here are a few things that stuck out to me or the ones that I want to stick with me:

-There’s SO MUCH energy here!
-Just being around the teachers, administrators, parents, community organizers, and others has been really motivating and I am excited to get back and share this weekend with my colleagues and really make my home visits more meaningful.
-I am further convinced of the need of home visits to develop and maintain a positive connection between myself, my students, and their parents/guardians.
-I learned that my school has been doing some Social Emotional Learning practices (SEL) and I’m hoping to be more strategic in teaching my students specifically about SELF-AWARENESS because then they can actually move on to SELF-MANAGING.  (These are from the CASEL Core Competencies).  A really cool website that I got out of that session was a parent tool kit that gives parents an understanding of what their child is going through socially, emotionally, physically, etc. It breaks it down by grade. 

Thanks to Twitter #PTHVP14, I was able to get a glimpse into other sessions that I wasn’t able to visit and came across a great list of questions from a survey that I can use for a follow up or during the PTHV from the Harvard Family Research Project. The questions address the following:

Parental support— How much help are students getting at home?
Child behaviors—What habits have students developed that shape their success?
Parent engagement — How engaged are parents in their child’s schooling, and what potential barriers exist?
Parent self-efficacy—How confident are parents in supporting their child’s schooling?
School climate —How do parents view their school regarding academic and social standards?
Parent roles and responsibilities—How do parents view their roles as well as teachers’ roles in different aspects of their child’s schooling?
School program fit—How well do a school’s academic program, social climate, and organizational structure match a student’s needs?

The actual survey can be found here.

On discussing white organization speaking of racial justice, one of the panel speakers mentioned something that stuck with me,  She mentioned, (paraphrased)

One of the first tasks working with majority white organization involved with social justice is having them understand that they are white and what that essentially means so that we can move forward to have honest conversation.

It means amends, reparation, and not just apologize to make it right. 

While, I am not white this served as an important reminder for me as well:  it’s important for me to be self-aware of who I am and where I come from relative to my student so that I can then have an honest conversation with them and their families. My students deal with things which I cannot relate to therefore I can’t put on a front that I understand what they are going through, rather I need to understand where they are coming from, be empathetic and make an effort so that we can move the conversation and actions forward. 

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Parent Teacher Home Visits

I had mentioned in my Sunday Summary that one of my goals for this week was to reflect and blog about the parent teacher home visit conference that I will be attending this week in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I had hoped to reflect on parent teacher home visits before I flew out, but that didn’t happen, but alas…

So on to parent teacher home visits.

The general idea:  In March, pushed by community eagerness and desire to be involved (and a lot of other people), our UFT chapter leaders introduced the Parent Teacher Home Visit project to our staff.  The goal: Visit ALL of our incoming students before school begins in September.  After showing initial interest, we were visited by parents and teachers from the national project from Burbank, California who spoke of the impact in their school community since they started the project about 13 (I might have my numbers wrong) years ago.  Listening to their story, I was further convinced for the need in our community.  Our school was founded by the community, for the community, and since there is a huge community organization presence in our school, it just made sense that as teachers and advisors of the students, we go out and learn about our students and their families from the people who know them the best, namely their families!  I was touched by their stories and lasting impact. We modified our goal, realizing that completing all 140+ visits before the school year began was not feasible for us, so our current goal is to visit the homes of our students by December.

Hopes and Dreams: One of the non-negotiables for the visits is asking our parents to share their hopes and dreams for their child and in turn for us to discuss our hopes and dreams for said student.  This was the most powerful moment during our training as we heard from parents and from teachers who have been involved wit the project. I must admit, there were few dry eyes in that room when we all shared our hopes and dreams for our students.

Teaming up:  Our classes, nicknamed “houses” have two teachers who serve as the advisors for the students in the house. So roughly each advisor is in charge of 14-15 advisees.  Each advisor was paired up with another staff member or community member to facilitate the home visits.  I am paired up with the 6th grade guidance counselor and our teamwork and experience has been amazing. It is really helpful that she is multi-lingual which has come to use when working with our Spanish and French speaking parents.  We’re able to balance the academic, social, and emotional aspects of our students in our conversation with parents.

Initial Hesitancies:  

I was beyond nervous about making my first phone call about the parent teacher home visit.  During our training we practiced all kinds of scenarios, especially worst case scenarios, so in my head I was expecting to make at least 5-6 calls before getting a parent to agree to visit their homes.  However to my surprise all the parents I called on the first day were so eager.  About 2 months into school, my colleague and I have completed half of our visits and students and parents have been asking when we are visiting them, so the word has been spreading among the parents and students.

Impacts so far, Part ONE:

  • Getting to know students and their families, becoming a student in the process: First and foremost, I’ve been learning about my students from people who have known them for so much longer than me.  I get to know the academic, emotional, and social side of my students.  I have great rapport with my students, but it usually takes a few months to getting to know their likes, dislikes, and temperament. I am finding out about them so much faster through one conversation. I always start my visits by saying, “I want to be a better teacher for Johnny and I can do that by knowing more about him, so what are some things I should know?” It turns the tables and gives parents a chance to open up and allows me to be a student because its my turn to listen. I get to know about their home life and begin to see and hear about obstacles and stressors the student might bring into the classroom. I’ve become mindful of them and my check-ins with students have become so much more meaningful because I know (for most part) what some of the issues are.
  • Calling home: Prior to doing any home visits, calling parents was always such a painful thing to do.  I loath making phone calls home especially in the beginning of the year when I haven’t had a face-to-face with parents.  It’s not that I love making phone calls home, but I definitely hate them a lot less.  I know how my call is going to be received.  During the visit, I start off my saying “We want to create a partnership, a team so that Johnny can be successful…so let’s see what we can do to make sure that happens.”  Almost always parents mention to what extent they want to be communicated and about what things.  They share what they expect and in turn I share my expectations.   So the phone calls home become less of, “Johnny is at it again….” and more about working together to resolve issues because we have the same goal in the end.
  • Academic Support in school and home: It’s not even about the behavior most times.  Many of my parents are at a lost about how to support the students academically and thats where we as the school come in and I feel that now I know to what extent I can assist my parents and have realistic expectations.  For example, one of my mothers is willing to sit with the students and work with him on khan academy or practice exercises so when that student struggles with something I know what message I can send home.  For another student, mom explained her work schedule and she really can’t help him, so I know that he needs something independent or further support during school hours.  So now the messages and supports going home are so much more relevant for my students.  Clearly I’ve only visited half of my students so far, so there is a long way to go–but I think that there has definitely been improvement.

To keep this from becoming a long list, I’m going to pause on this and return to it at another time. To be continued…

#MTBoS Week 10…(or is it Week 1) Challenge

MTBOSChallenge_3

A bit late to start, but on to my Sunday Summary.

3 things I did on my break.

  1. I cleaned my room! By the end of the week my room is a disaster zone and by Sunday morning it looks (mostly flawless). Then entropy takes course.  I’m challenging myself to clean my place in 30 days inspired by an article on apartment therapy.  I’m adjusting the list as it goes but setting a timer has been helpful.

    “No one said you had to do everything at once and even when time seems short, if you can manage one task a day, things should start to work themselves out.” ~

  2. I SLEPT FOR ~14 HOURS on Friday night! I came home from work and within two hours I was knocked out and didn’t wake up until about 10 AM the next morning.
  3. I went online shoe shopping: In preparation for another polar vortex in NYC, I bought myself a pair of snow and every day fall boots.  I decided to go for “Muck” snow boots after being disappointed at the Totes brand last year and then a pair of Tim’s after being disappointed at the quality of my Steve Maddens.  I refuse to have another winter of wet socks.

    "Artic Muck Boots"
    “Arctic Muck Boots”

2 goals for this week.

photo (2)
Must. Grade. You. All. (Uhh..yes, I sleep on a pillow pet #noshame)
photo (3)
Operation: Grade. You. ALL.
  1. Complete grading according to weekly plan. Next week is the last week of the 1st marking period. I have a huge pile of grading (or in some cases entering into our online system) to do which I want to complete before heading out to the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project Conference on Thursday.
  2. Blog and reflect about the PTHV Project and conference by Sunday.  This is the first year I am involved with it and I am so excited to be a part of it–but I have yet to reflect on it. I’m hoping this week gives me some new insights, but also time to reflect on what I and my school has done already.

1 thing I’ve missed lately.  

  • Spending time with my friends would make the top of the list.  One of my personal goals was to go out with my friends at least once a week and while I was able to maintain it in September, October has been a major #fail.  But I hope the rest of October doesn’t disappoint.

Two month reflection, year two

I’ve been reflecting on year two with my math coach.  First,  I’m so glad I’m  no longer a first year teacher.   I had an amazing first year…. Or so I’m told.   Year two comes with its own challenges,  but I’m glad that I stuck with teaching the same grade again.   It’s helped me become a lot more reflective as I think back to what worked and what did not work last year.  

Currently my biggest challenge has been having a clear vision for my numeracy class.  So in addition to having regular math classes,  all of our students get an additional 3 periods of math fluency class.   Its been a struggle since our school is using accelerated math and it hasn’t been living up to our expectations.   I’m trying out doing stations,  but just having issues with technology, initial account set up,  room logistics in the computer lab has set me back with setting up clear norms,  routines,  and expectations for the class.   My goal for the next week is to have a clearer vision and flow for those classes.