I have 30 more emails to go tonight. 30 more individual responses as a way to reach out. 30 more individual responses as a way to say thank you. 30 more individual responses as a way to plant a seed. Why so many emails to go? My team and I teach more than 150 students and every year we ask the parents/guardians to take a beginning of the year survey. We ask a few simple questions to start to get to know our students more. To get to know the families more. To start the relationship that we hope to have with them all year, and every single person that takes the survey deserves to get an email in response.
If you teach younger students, this may be nothing new for you, after all, the parent survey seems to be a pillar of beginning of the year. Yet, I don’t hear of it often at the middle and high school level. I don’t see many middle or high school teachers discuss their beginning of the year surveys. Which is such a shame because the information that we get with our few questions is invaluable. This is how we know that a child may have lost a parent. This is how we know if a child has had a tough school experience, if they love to read, if they cannot sit still. If all they hope for is a day full of PE or if they really hope that this is the year that their teachers will like them. This is how we know if those at home may not like school much and would therefore prefer to not be contacted.
What we have found the last few years is that this small beginning of the year survey is a chance for those at home to know that we value their knowledge of their child. That we value their commitment to school. That we value who their child is and the journey they are on, as well as take the role we play very seriously. We ask them how involved they would like to be to help us gauge their feelings about middle school. We ask them how they would like to be contacted so those who do not want an email can be called instead. We ask what their goals for their learner is so that we can help them achieve that, not calling it a weakness, but instead having them help us become better teachers.
I know that we often want students to become more independent and not so reliant on those at home, yet a survey is still in place. What those at home know about their child is worth sharing. What those at home know about what their learner still needs or strives for is worth hearing.
So if you haven’t done a beginning of the year parent/guardian survey do it now, even if the year has already started. Ask a few questions, send it out electronically and then hand paper copies to those who do not fill it out. Send a few reminders and then send a thank you email. Plant the seed of goodwill that will hopefully carry you throughout the year as you try to create a learning experience that works for every child and every parent/guardian. Trust me, you will be glad you did.
To see our current parent/guardian survey, go here. In the past we have also used the standard “What are your hopes and dreams for 7th grade?” but found that this survey gave us more information.
PS: I think I blog about this every year, but it is because I am blown away every year by the knowledge we receive.