Changing Our Thinking: Parents Don’t Care

Changing Our Thinking: Parents Don’t Care

Rethinking what we do is what teaching is all about. This series looks to bring up those practices and offer ideas that are more relevant in today’s classroom. I know parent/teacher conference time is coming up, and today we’re discussing how we talk about student’s families. Sometimes we act like parents don’t care about their children- that isn’t true. 

We've All Heard It... Or Said It

Parents Don't Care

“I can’t believe they don’t even care about their child.” 

“____’s mom couldn’t bother to show up for parent/teacher conferences again.”

“We waited for an hour, but ____’s dad never showed for the meeting.”

I know that I have said some of the things above, and I have heard other teachers saying them as well. It didn’t strike me as something I shouldn’t say and were said out of frustration until this parent/teacher conference story from long ago.

 

Parent: How many other parents actually showed up for conferences today? I heard from ____’s teacher that she only had four families show.

Me: I’ve had most families show up.

Parent: I mean, I just can’t believe that these parents don’t care. Showing up for parent/teacher conferences is the least they could do. If you have time to go and get your nails done, you have time to show up here. I’m a lawyer, and I even managed to clear my schedule today. So if I can do it, someone working at McDonald’s can do it. Have a great rest of your day!

WHAT? How many of us have heard this conversation with the belief that if they cared, they would show up. 

What's the Problem?

All parents care about their children. I believe that parents are trying to do what’s best for their children. True, there is a small percentage (read: super, super small- teeny tiny) of parents that aren’t doing what’s best for their children, but that is not the majority of parents. 

PARENTS DO CARE ABOUT THEIR CHILDREN.

Ok. let’s unpack this “If I could clear my schedule as a lawyer someone at McDonald’s could too.”

Uh, no, they can’t. Have you been to McDonald’s? They can’t just take a break whenever you like! There is a schedule to stick to. Your work schedules you for specific hours, and it’s expected you work those hours. 

I like to think about my mom and my dad. My mom has always worked in retail, and my dad is a financial analyst and works in business. I don’t visit my mom at work, and I know that she is often only available to respond to my texts during her break. My dad is much more open. I can text him, and if he ever looked at his phone, he could answer it. I’ve popped into my dad’s office on a whim and taken him to lunch. My dad needs to notify his secretary that he will be back later, that’s all! My mom doesn’t have that luxury. 

To say that parents who work at McDonald’s (or wherever) don’t care about their children because they don’t have the luxury of leaving work to come to school isn’t ok. They are showing they care for their children because they’re working to provide for them. They’re doing their best, and they don’t need hate. Maybe we need to rethink the structure of parent-teacher conferences to allow more parents the opportunity to attend.  

Stop the Parent Shaming

We, as teachers, shame parents all the time, and we might not even know it. Usually, it happens out of frustration because we care deeply for each and every one of our students. The parents we work with also care deeply about their children. I’m not a parent, but I hear that the love you feel for your child is unreal and super deep. So, we could make a little argument that parents care about their children more than I can even imagine. We need to listen for the tone and messages that are sent by our words.

We’re doing the best we can as teachers and parents are doing the best they can as parents. Let’s work together! We each are concerned with the best interests of the child, and let’s focus on that. Sometimes I forget about meetings after school and only realize it as I see everyone on their way. Sometimes I forget to take attendance in the morning. We all mess up, and we’re all doing the best we can do. A bit of understanding and empathy might better serve our parent relationships better.

What I've Learned

If we care deeply about the children in our classroom, then we also care about their families. Families are doing the best they can. When people ask me questions that I know have negative connotations, I do my best to help rewrite this story we’ve written about those parents.

We’re all doing the best we can. We all support the student and their learning. That support looks different based on so many various factors. If parents don’t show up to parent-teacher conferences, it isn’t because they don’t care. Try reaching out in other ways. Connecting through Seesaw might be one way to show and communicate student progress. Whatever you do, don’t give in to the parent shaming! 

How to Plan Seesaw Posts

How to Plan Seesaw Posts

Using Seesaw

Seesaw is one of my favorite new tech tools in the classroom. It makes communication between home and school seamless. I started using it a few years ago, and I have improved so much! Let’s talk about how to plan seesaw posts to enhance your parent communication. 

I initially began using Seesaw as a first-grade teacher. Our kindergarten program was Reggio Emilia inspired. A large part of the Reggio approach is using pictures as documentation to show learning. Parents received a file folder filled with photos that documented each week’s learning. I couldn’t compete with that! The grade one classroom was structured differently, and while we took pictures, we no longer took as many photos as they did the year before. Our documentation of learning happens differently. I had to bridge the expectation gap somehow, and that is where Seesaw saved me. 

My assistant teacher took pictures of the students in one class period every day and shared it on Seesaw. As we got into our school year, the kids began posting messages about their learning. Parents loved it! Homework used to be the way that parents kept up to date with their child’s education. Today, as we follow the research, there’s less homework sent home. Parents still desire that connection to school; Seesaw helps fill in that gap. 

How to Plan Seesaw Posts

Reflect

First, reflect on the learning in your classroom. Each week I start with a simple reflection that I am already doing- this isn’t extra work just for Seesaw. What are my instructional goals in each subject? How could I use a post to teach parents about something? What do parents want to see? What might be some useful posts for the week? When planning seesaw posts, I don’t like to go out of my way to make Seesaw posts. I want them to be natural parts of our learning or meaningful extensions of the work we’re doing. Let’s take next week as an example.

In reading, we’re working to envision our stories. We’re working to make a movie in our minds about what is happening on the page. I know that many parents and students believe that if they read the words and can do a quick retell, they understand and comprehend the book. As a teacher, I know that the level of comprehension required in my grade level is much deeper than that. 

Possible Posts: 
-Students can share a stop and sketch by taking a picture and recording how the stop and sketch helped their understanding of the text. 
-A student could do a digital stop and sketch. They could draw out what is happening in their story and record themselves reading the paragraph that led to this stop and sketch.

In writing, we’re working on publishing personal narratives. I always like to use Seesaw to document the editing and revision process. It is simple and a great reflection tool for students to show what they started with, what changes they made, and why those changes were made. This way, when parents see the final product, they know a bit more about the work that went into making this piece. As a teacher, I also know that parents can sometimes expect perfect finished pieces. Adding the editing and revising process to Seesaw would show just how much the student improved their writing.  

Possible Post: 
-Have students take a picture of their story at the end of a writer’s workshop lesson and explain what changes were made. We write in black pen and edit in green pen so new changes will be visible.

In math, we’re working to understand the distributive property of multiplication. I know that many parents were raised on answer-getting math, just like I was. We memorized definitions of different properties, and that was that. I know that adding a post with a deep understanding and description of the property can help parents see why connected learning is so important in math. 

Possible Post: 
-Perhaps I could create an activity where students could solve a problem using the distributive property on Seesaw and then could record themselves explaining how they solved it.

In science, we’re working to understand forces. Science is always such an easy one for me to share. I feel like science lends itself to sharing so naturally. Kids LOVE to take pictures and videos of experiments as we engage in the scientific method. As a teacher, I know that science has shifted with the NGSS. Using Seesaw could help parents see how science class now intertwines science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. 

Possible Post:
-Recording of an experiment with an added caption about the experiment

In word study, we are studying long and short e. We’ve worked on sorting out different patterns and are working to incorporate this spelling pattern into our writing. I know that word study is another large shift for teachers and parents. No longer are we memorizing a list of words we’re studying that patterns in words. 

Possible Posts:
-Create an activity where students sort words into different categories.
-Have students find long e and short e words in their writing and double-check that they are spelled correctly or explain which pattern is used. 

From this quick reflection, I have so many possible Seesaw posts that tie into our learning. Now I have to figure out which ones would be most meaningful for students and parents. Remember that Seesaw allows students to share their learning, but it also creates a story and sends a message to parents about what’s happening in your classroom. 

Plan Your Seesaw Post

Types of Posts

https://msnatashatheodora.com/classroom-community/friday-five-student-centered-classrooms/

Now that we’ve reflected, it is time to plan. The screenshot above shows the different types of posts students can create. 

    1. Photo- A photo uses the device’s camera to take a photo. Once the picture is taken, there are so many great tools that a student can use to demonstrate learning. They can add labels or a caption. Kids can record themselves talking while the image is displayed. They can take another picture and layer that on top of the first image. They also have drawing tools available to demonstrate learning.
    2. Drawing- A drawing presents the student with a blank page and all of the same tools available on the photo. They can use the drawing, labeling, and picture tools while creating a drawing. 
    3. Video- Creating a video uses the device’s camera to record. Just a fair warning that depending on the age of your students, you might want to do a quick lesson on camera stability before letting them record. I’ve been taken on quite a few motion-sickness inducing videos before! 
    4. Upload- Here, students can upload something they already have. Maybe they are working on a google doc that they want to share. Or perhaps the picture or video they want to upload is already on the device. This is the one for them. 
    5. Note- When posting a note, students have access to a sort of word processor. They can type up what they want to share and later can record.
    6. Link- The link is where students can paste in a URL, and it will display the link. Students then have the option to record and discuss the link.

Think about which tool might best slide in with the learning already happening in your classroom. Which one is the best choice for your students? Remember that you don’t want to overwhelm parents with a bunch of things that aren’t meaningful. Which ones are the most meaningful? What is the story you’re creating and sending home to parents? 

Assign an Activity

When you assign an activity, you can choose from already created and shared activities, or you can create your own activity. To be honest, I rarely just assign an activity from the activity library. Usually, I need to make a few tweaks to the activity to make it seamlessly fit into our learning.
I usually create activities for all the posts we share. This is because I have a large number of students in my classroom whose native language isn’t English. Strategies for non-native English speakers are suitable for all students. I think it is helpful for students to see the directions after I have given them, so I try to always create an activity for whatever we are going to post. When I create an activity, it stays in my library. That means I can look back from year to year and reuse activities instead of having to generate new ideas each and every year.

Action!

It’s time to take action and plan out your first post. Click on the picture to get a free Seesaw planner!

If you’re not already on Seesaw head over to Seesaw’s youtube channel to learn more about getting started on the platform. You’ll need parent permission before students start posting. You will also want to connect with all of your families. Seesaw just rolled out a new option, which makes connecting families easier than ever!

Please know that Seesaw is extremely responsive. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, or Youtube for more information. Seesaw is really dedicated to listening to teacher feedback and making sure that using their platform creates the best experience for everyone!

Best of luck!

Are you a Seesaw user? How do you plan out your posts? Do you have any other tips to offer up? Leave a comment below to share some more pro tips with us!

If you’re new to Seesaw comment below about how your first post went!