Reaching Out to Our Parents



This fall when we re-organized our School Community Council (SCC) for another year, I was struggling to try to find a member who wanted to step up to be chairperson for the committee.  Our past chair had worked tirelessly for two years and was wanting a break.  I can’t say I blame her because the two years she was chairperson we raised over $90,000 and installed 2 playground projects.  That is enough to make anyone want to step down.  She did an awesome job and is still a committee member.

The weird thing about not having a leader of our committee is that it might lead you to believe that our parents are not engaged in our school and I don’t feel like that is the case at all.  Time and time again when we need something, our parents are there.

I have talked often about the importance of a strong team.  We have plenty of research to tell us that when a child has support from many adults in their life, they have a much easier time developing physically, emotionally, spiritually and academically.  It really just makes sense.

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Kindergarten Fall Fun


In reflecting on the things we do to make parents and families feel welcome as a valuable part of our team, it is easy to see we are well on our way, but are we doing everything we can do?

I think we can safely assume that all parents want what is best for their children or we should assume that.  It may not be the same in every family and it may not manifest itself in the same way in our building.  Taking into consideration differences in families and lifestyles, I think most parents give as much as they can.   Perhaps if we want to improve our parent connection, we need to be more specific about what we want and we may have more parents willing to take a chance on investing in us more often.

According to a great book, “Beyond the Bake Sale” by Henderson, Mapp, Johnson and Davis, “…parents are more motivated to support their children’s learning when they receive clear invitations and support from teachers and other school staff to be engaged, are confident about their ability to help their children, and are clear about what they should do to support their child’s learning?”  (p.34)

That is a mouthful, but in my mind, the ideas behind it are very simple.

1.  We need to reach out to parents in many ways, personal ways, engage in conversations and build relationships by calling and communicating about our students many times and not just when we are having behavioral or academic issues.

2.  When we want our parents to help us out with something, we need to be very clear about what we are wanting them to do.  Knock off the “teacher speak” and give suggestions and directions and reasons why.

3.  We need to believe in their ability to help us out.  Parents come from all walks of life with all kinds of experiences and all kinds of knowledge to offer to us and their children.

Right now we have some parents helping us out every day with our early literacy project we have titled ROAR (Really Outrageous at Reading).  We need every adult body  we can get so we can divide all of our grade one students into small groups and have leveled literacy every day.  We know this benefits our students and we also know we would not be able to do it, as well, without the parents that are helping us out.

ROAR Reading Groups


At our SCC meeting in November we left with the challenge to reach out to another parent, explain what our committee was all about and bring them to the next meeting.  We had a number of new members attend our meeting in January and I went home that night with a new chairperson for our committee.

What I hope we can create now is a true partnership where we ask for and appreciate feedback.  Where we reach out with questions and information expecting the same coming back at us.  I hope we can listen without being defensive when parents are being advocates for their children.  I hope we can increase our communication, especially the positive, because the positive conversations may make the more difficult ones easier in the future.  I hope we can see the advantage and build the trust needed for parents to feel like they are truly an equal part of our team.

What we need now is parents to take a chance on us.





Grade 7 Health Challenge

We are the grade 7 class at Pleasantdale School in room 118.  We are trying to raise awareness of health issues and promote healthy lifestyles to other people our age.  We each researched a topic and made a podcast.

Please listen to our podcasts.

Unhealthy Eating-Angelle



Bulimia- Taylor


Logan-Video Games and Television




January 2015 #pdale Teacher Twitter Challenge



As many of you know when I was taking my master’s degree I learned so many things that changed my entire philosophy of education.  Learning from people like Alec Couros and Dean Shareski opened my ideas to many ideas that I had never even thought of before.  My first experience in an open education course scared me to death.  Being online with 200+ people from all over the world was an idea I had never even considered before.  It was through taking courses that I learned about web tools such as blogs, wiki spaces and many others.  It was also through these courses that I realized the importance of being a connected educator.

I was shocked once again, 2 years ago when we agreed to send Devin, Kimberley and Nicole to Philadelphia to attend the Educon Conference.  When they returned and taught us how to use twitter, I had no idea how something so simple would, once again, change my entire view of professional development.

People who say things such as…

“Why would I care what people are having for dinner?” or  “Why do I care when people are doing their laundry?”

…have no idea the opportunities for individualized learning that twitter and other social media sites make possible.

I know that everyone learns in their own way and learning through twitter might not be for everyone, but I also feel so strongly about the importance of making connections.  Connections open doors to other classrooms, to other methodologies, to opportunities to learn about things we have never heard of and connections also give us the opportunity to share what we are doing with others so they may learn from us.

I also believe strongly about telling our own positive story.  The things we are doing every day are too important to leave to chance.  We need to be in charge of spreading our story to our parents and community in our way.

Connections do not have to be made through twitter, but that is where we are going to start.

I thought it would be a fun idea to jump in and do a challenge in January so we could learn together in a similar manner to the blogging we did together a few years ago.

I hope you will use this opportunity to reach out of your comfort zone.  For some of you the reach will be longer than others.  You will not be alone!  We are all in this together.


The January 2015 #pdale Teacher Twitter Challenge!

The following is a video of Alec Couros talking about twitter in education:


Some links that might be useful:

List of recommended people to follow sorted by their role in education.

List of classrooms around the world that tweet.

Weekly twitter chat days and times.

Great twitter classroom connections.

Twitter for Teachers

Establishing a twitter routine in the classroom

Participating in a twitter chat

Please remember you are not alone!  I can’t wait to see the things we can learn!


What I Learned in 2014


I started the school year in September kind of beat up and shell-shocked from a very stressful year that ended in June.  I had allowed the stress of the year to consume me and it took a toll on my enthusiasm, health and desire to do my job well.

Over the summer I spent my time healing, reflecting and coming up with a plan to approach the stresses of my job in a healthier way that did not consume my life.  I had to try not take things personally and concentrate on the things that we could control in our building rather than the negative feedback we were getting from a few parents and students.  My mantras for this school year that I try to remember are:

  • I can’t make everybody happy.
  • I can’t solve everyone’s problems.

Even though the mantras do not seem very positive, they have allowed me to realize my limits, to allow my, very capable, staff to do things without my control  and they have led me to a much happier school and home life, with a lot less stress.

I have mentioned many times , about my awesome, hardworking staff.  We have been able to create a team that works together and involves all 25 of us,  from our bus driver to our custodians.  We  started this year with a number of new staff and have learned to work together and appreciate each other’s strengths.

Our team has branched out this fall to not only include our staff and students, but we now have a number of parent volunteers helping us on a daily basis, especially with our school goal to improve our reading scores in the early years.  Parents and extended family are a valuable part of our team and when we all work together we truly can accomplish great things for and with our students.

The Christmas break has allowed me time to think about the fall and be grateful for the things we have been able to accomplish as a school team including our parents and community members.  Since I have become part of the administration @PDaleSchool I have been amazed at the generosity and support of our community.

January is a time of renewal and goal setting.

There have been many things I have learned this fall, but I have come up with 4 important things I have learned,  that I would like to continue to develop and practice.

1. Listen…

I have been guilty in the past of jumping to conclusions about situations before I have stopped to listen to what people are really saying to me.  I have been trying to keep my mouth closed until I have truly listened and considered the perspectives of others.   I have come to realize that although, I may not agree with what someone is saying to me or how they are saying it to me, the perspective of others is important.  Many times all I need to do for staff, students and parents is listen and take their concerns seriously.

I hope I can continue to develop my listening skills according to the wise words of Woodrow Wilson,

“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.”

2.  Don’t judge what I do not know…

I have been frustrated many times as a teacher and principal, when I feel like we are being judged by a moment in time such as a quick walk through or one piece of data.

One quick snapshot rarely tells a story. 

One of my teachers reminded me of this early in the fall.  I realized that what I see as I am wandering around the building and spending time in classrooms are also snapshots and do not tell the whole story.  When I am having quick conversations with parents or I am privy to only one small part of family situations, I should not be judging on these snapshots.  Jumping to conclusions is never fair.

3. Lack of time is not an excuse…

I do not need to explain to anyone who is a teacher or who has spent time with a teacher the intense business and commitment that the job requires.  It is easy to be negative about change and growth, using lack of time as an excuse not to buy in.  I have realized the necessity of reflecting on how I am spending my time and whether or not it is really being used in the ways that will benefit, me, my family, my students and my staff.  If I do not have time for important things like people, professional growth, students needs, etc. then perhaps it is up to me to re-evaluate how I am spending my time.

4.  Tell our story…

Last year I read a book on digital leadership by fellow principal and leader Eric Sheninger.  One of the things he describes in his book, which I have written about before,  is school branding. Basically the idea stems around the importance of not leaving our school story up to someone else to tell.  If we do not tell our own positive story, we run the risk of allowing someone else to paint a picture that might not be as positive.  I have really tried to take this idea to heart and believe in the importance of it for the following reasons:

I need my teachers to be proud of the things they are doing every day with our students.

I need our parents to know what is happening every day with their children so they can be confident and assured we are helping them learn and grow on a daily basis.

I need my superintendent and other school division leaders to know that we are working hard to do what is right for our students and to support the school division goals. 

I need our community to know that what we are doing so they will continue to give us their support. 

As we start on the journey of the gift of another year, I hope that I can listen more,  judge less, accept challenges without the excuses and continue to tell our positive school story, because it is worth telling.

What do you hope to do in 2015?