I recently had the chance to interview Dr. Bonnie Stelmach from the University of Alberta, Faculty of Education on the Intersection Education podcast. If you are unfamiliar with her work, she looks at school communities and how parents feel (or don’t feel) in partnership with schools. It is a great topic that touches on important aspects of the school-home relationship. She doesn’t stop there though, she has recently expanded her research focus to include questions about school leadership and the state of school leaders in Alberta. If you want to see her latest study, you can read it at:
Alberta School Leadership Within the Teaching Profession 2019
The research finding that is really shaking my thinking right now is her comment about digital communication. In her words, she finds it heartbreaking that schools are requiring teachers to communicate with their parents and community in such large quantity. She has no evidence that this communication (whether it be by email, blog, Seesaw, Instagram, Twitter, PowerSchool, Maplewood, Facebook, etc) increases the sense of community with the school. Parents do not feel more connected if there is an increase in this type of communication.
This is rather problematic, as you might be thinking about how schools require teachers to put a certain quantity of digital communication out to parents each week. In some schools that Dr. Stelmach references there is an expectation that this communication is done daily.
My thoughts are primarily based around balance. I don’t think she is saying that teachers should not have communication with their community. She acknoledges that this needs to happen. She is more speaking to the frequency and regularity of the communication. Every day is probably too much. Once a week is probably closer to the right amount.
Also, she gave many other tips on who we might create a sense of community with our parents and stakeholders. She mentions the revolutionary concept of actually knowing the names of the parents…
I know it seems like something so small that it doesn’t matter, but her research says it does. If a parents walks in and is “known” they feel like a part of the school community. This has nothing to do with the frequency of communication, but rather a sense of connection. These are the people who will go forth and help. Who will give you feedbakc. Who will volunteer.
So the next time you are walking down the hallway and see a parent, try to call them by their first name. Let them know you know them and that they are a part of the school. Chances are this simple act will save you hours of typing on your computer.
Listen to my whole conversation on:
Transistor (the web)