I’ve always tried to keep parents updated on what is going on in my class each year. I’ve done a weekly email, a classroom blog, a website, but I never truly felt anyone ever looked at it. So I gave up on it. Too much work. This year, I decided to forgo it and used Google Classroom as my primary source of communicating. Parents could log in, see their student’s assignments and be in the know. I realized today, after a few weeks of my younger son attending summer school, that simply posting assignments is not really communicating. A class blog is really the best tool to keep parents in the know. Here’s why.
Today I received this picture:
This picture tells me so much more than the boy in it can.
You see, I live on both ends of the spectrum sort of speak. In my last post I spoke of my older son who has never had an issue in school. He’s bright, well liked by his teachers, and a really good reader and writer. My younger son, Pup (the nickname I gave him at birth because his crying sounded like a puppy’s), is 8 and has Fragile x Syndrome. Fragile X is a genetic disorder causing moderate to severe cognitive delay. He also has autism. Pup is in a special day class and has inclusion time with typical peers each day. With his receptive language much better than his expressive, he is also practically non verbal, able to only answer simple yes or no questions and not always consistently. He can communicate basic needs and uses some sign language, but at this time Pup is unable to have a real conversation with me aside from scripted language he’s memorized. Although this sounds all very bleak, he is the greatest kid ever. He loves basketball, Weird Al Yankovic, The Nightmare Before Christmas, taking walks with the dogs, swimming, and the beach.
The beauty of being a teacher is that I know many other teachers. His teacher happens to be a former colleague. When I learned she was going to be his teacher for summer school I asked her if she would kindly send me pictures of him via text message as Pup is not able to tell me about his time at school. She happily agreed. With pictures I am able to see into his day. I’m able to show him that I know what he is doing in his class. To not be able to communicate with my child is sometimes heartbreaking. These photos ease my pain a little, and when I show him the pictures he smiles and understands that I know what he does every day. I can see what he plays at recess, what he made for art, or what stories he listened to. Therefore, I can reinforce his learning at home, even using the language he is hearing at school. I can’t thank this teacher enough for taking the time to send me a picture. These pictures provide me with the opportunity to have a conversation with my son.
Now, it would be impossible to send pictures to every parent every day, but a classroom blog can solve this issue. Through posts about the day spent at school, even just a weekly post, parents can communicate with their children about their learning, share in what was fun, ask questions, and stay abreast of what is happening in class. The classic answer of “Nothing” when parents ask their children what they did in school can be replaced with thoughtful conversations. In a special education classroom with non verbal children, I think this is an absolute must. I am not a special education teacher, but I’m saddened that my son has never had a teacher who kept a class blog or website. For parents like me in the special needs community this communication tool is key to helping our kids. It can serve as a bridge to connect the worlds of home and school, which for many kids like Pup, are often disconnected.
So this coming fall, I will go back to a class blog to help those parents who want a way to peek into their students’ day. It’s far from an original idea, as many teachers have done this for years. I just never wanted to put in the work when I didn’t think it was being viewed. But if it helps just one parent- the parent of a student who has communication issues, a learning disability, or incredible shyness, to communicate with his/her child-to bridge the worlds of home and school- then it will be worth it.