My son is a freshman in one of the district’s amazing high schools. I have three other children who attend a school outside of the district. Keeping up on what they’re doing in school and sports, and maintaining communication has been quite an adventure. Just to give you an idea, here’s a glimpse of how I get information on what’s going on:

  • For baseball, I keep up on TeamSnap to view schedules and indicate attendance, WhatsApp for team communications and announcements, GameChanger for live updates and stats. For soccer, it’s also WhatsApp, with a paper calendar that went home once that sometimes didn’t match the one on the school’s website. Every one of my 9th grader’s teachers has his/her own WordPress site. Some post every single day, while others post less often.  I get a very informative email each week from the principal, with upcoming events and helpful announcements. The school itself also has a magnificent WordPress site. I keep up on grades and attendance using Parent Connect, and receive important emails about things like late start days via email. I hear there are a couple of Remind feeds as well. And every once in a while my son gets a mention on Twitter. It’s true that not all seasons coincide. But keep in mind, this is only for my 9th grader…
  • As for my other kids, I get a weekly email from a couple of their teachers with a very nice newsletter. Each week, the principal also sends an updated newsletter via email. For basketball, it’s TeamSnap and the bulletin board outside the gym. Parents in one of my kids’ classes communicate via text group chats; for another, it’s a Facebook group. Occasionally, paper announcements go home, and once in a while we get an email from the school secretary about pink eye or another illness going around. One teacher uses Instagram. And my kids grades and some other announcements are available via RenWeb.
  • On top of all of this, there’s word of mouth, rumors, perceptions and misperceptions of announcements. Every once in a while, I find out about something that I should know because my kid happens to come home and tell me that Ali said his dad told him such-and-such. That’s not very often, but some things slip through the cracks.

Fortunately most of this information comes to me on one device, sometimes automatically (as with my WordPress subscriptions that come to my email), others I need to go and get. This is reality–my intention is not, by any means, to drum up sympathy. I’m grateful for all I can know, thanks to my kids’ teachers, coaches, and principals.

 

My Kids, My Responsibility

I happen to come from a school of thought that believes that educating my child is the ultimate responsibility of my wife and me, alone. And while I believe it’s ok and right to delegate some of that responsibility to schools, it is nevertheless the honor, duty, and delight of both of us to be the primary educators of our kids.

I have to admit: it is sometimes heartbreaking for me to see my kids after school each day, and find myself caught in the same conversation:

“Hey kiddo, how was school today?”

“Good.”

“What did you learn today?”

“Nothing.”

As a teacher by trade, I know the second half of this recurring conversation is far from the truth. Amazing things happen in my kids’ lives at school every day, even if they don’t acknowledge it. But often, even my probing questions can scarcely reveal the events of their day. As a father with a strong sense of accountability for my kids’ learning, this makes me feel helpless sometimes. And truthfully, if I look hard enough, I can find evidence of some of the things they’re learning. With four kids (and yes, I am aware of my level of accountability for that fact as well), that makes an evening.

 

Grateful

For these reasons, I am grateful for all of the ways my kids’ teachers communicate. In particular, I’d like to highlight one for whom I am utterly thankful, because her work and communication empowers me as a parent to fulfill my responsibilities in the education of my child:

screenshot of Mrs. Meyers' blogEach and every day of class, Mrs. Katherine Meyers posts a short blog post on her WordPress site, to which I am subscribed. It tells me the topic of the day, a brief list of activities, and even links to a document, video, or two that tell me what happened in World History that day. Every day, I know enough of what went on in 2nd hour that I can have a much more fruitful conversation with my son. Instead of “What did you learn today?”, I can ask “What did you guys talk about when you looked at the Renaissance today?”, share some of the things I know, ask what he thought of specific personalities, facts he learned that he didn’t know, and even what he thought of the activity on the handout that asked them to do <whatever>. And, as word has it, she even uses her blog during class, displaying it on her screen, and using it to help her stay on track during class. That makes me even happier to know that as useful as it is for me, it’s probably also useful for her. Her diligence and steadfastness in maintaining her blog is empowering to many.

Thank you to all teachers who help me fulfill my responsibilities as a parent. Thank you for empowering my kids. Thank you, especially, for the ways you communicate that empower me to navigate through this role of being a father of 4.

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