Lessons in Feedback 4a: Pleasing the Parents

#28daysofwriting Day 3

In my previous post on this subject, I suggested that there’s only one thing teachers need to do in the independent sector and that’s please the parents.

So the big question is how. What do parents who pay actual money for the children to go to school want? I think they want opportunities for the children. Opportunities to excel at sport and music. Opportunities to broaden their life experience. Opportunities to excel academically.

I’ve discovered in my short time in the independent sector that parents love getting feedback about their children. A quick chat turns into a mini-parents’ consultation. An email turns into an essay about their child. I was warned when I started that you have to be prepared to say no, otherwise the demands become ever-increasing and unmanageable.

I wanted to do something proactive. Something that would enable to efficiently keep the parents in touch with what is going on in the classroom. I’d heard of Class Dojo, but never used it at my previous schools. It sounded like the right sort of thing. A web-based platform that also works on Android and iOs devices that can connect with parents. It sounded like I should set it up.

On my first day in class, at 7:30am I still hadn’t done anything about Class Dojo. I logged onto my computer, set up an account and by the time the pupils were coming in an hour later I had setup all their names and my behaviour system. It was fantastic.

By the second week I had all the parents connected. They were watching videos (I use Magisto for this, as I posted previously), seeing photos of their children’s work and communicating with me about lost items and organisational details. I swiftly found that by being proactive about feedback to the parents, I kept the impromptu parents consultation to a minimum and dealt with small matters before they big issues.

Were the parents happy? Yes. And what’s more, because they were in touch with what was going on in the classroom, they could be part of the feedback loop with their own children, an extra voice helping the children refocus on their learning and make better progress. Awesome.

Lessons in Feedback 2: Video

Recently I moved from teaching Key Stage 2 pupils (aged 7-11) to Key Stage 1 (aged 5-7). Suddenly my written feedback had no meaning as, being five, most of my pupils couldn’t read anything I wrote. They also didn’t have the self awareness for feedback to actually make an impact beyond that lesson. I needed something that would enable them to reconnect with their learning, both later on (like after a weekend), and at home.

The answer was video.

I started using a service called Magisto. This collects your videos and photos, then edits them into a splendid-looking short movie with sound and effects. It is free if you want to do 20 videos or less, but if you need to add more you have to pay a yearly subscription. Here’s an example of some stop-motion videos I collected into one Magisto movie.

Each week I would take a few photos and videos of work and activities in the classroom, then put them into Magisto and share the resultant video with the pupils and parents. It often took less than ten minutes.

What I found was that it was a great way of getting 5-year olds to remember what they had done in the previous week and therefore connect them with their learning. Also it provided a way to engage the parents with their child’s progress, so that they too could talk to their child about their learning.

The children and the parents loved having this and it became a far more effective way of feeding back than marking. One father told me that his son, who had made tremendous academic progress during year 1, had only done so because of the video feedback.

It made me realise that for this age of children engaging the parents is the most important thing you can do.