Today I thought I’d share a positive email correspondence with you that I think you’ll find valuable. This is from a family that I’ve worked with and known well for a few years now. You see, a lot of what I do is help families decode how to communicate with the school so they can help their child. I always say that advocacy letters are always about one thing: Clarity. You’re always seeking clarity regarding the situation. I recommend simple emails, short, to the point, and assume that the teacher is on your team. Make it easy for the teacher to respond so you can get the answers you need.
Anyhow, I think that reading this is helpful to parents and teachers. Not only does it have excellent questions you may want to use, but it’s positive, you can tell that they’re on the same team, and the communication is clear so that the right actions can be taken! That’s the point. You can also tell by how great the questions are that this mom has been through this before!
Note: all names have been changed.
On Sep 27, 2017, at 3:25 PM, Teacher wrote:
“Hi Bonnie (the mom),
Julie (a tutor) shared with me the questions you would like answered regarding David (student) and my class. Please find below my detailed responses in preparation for our meeting tomorrow. I’ll be happy to clarify any of the responses for you tomorrow.
Things I’d like to know: (the bold is questions from the mom, the rest is the teacher’s responses)
1. How are kids told about homework: readings, tests, quizzes, assignments etc. Is it verbal, written on board??
Assignment due dates are communicated verbally and are typically also written on the board. The are also given frequent reminders. Due dates for major writing assignments are also listed on the assignment in Turnitin.com.
2. Where is the class syllabus/curriculum posted or available to look at? Is there a monthly or weekly calendar so kids know what is upcoming?
A syllabus and course outline can be found in David’s Google folder.
3. What resources do kids have if they forget, lose or are unsure of an upcoming assignment?
Students can see me before and after class, during TAP/Period 8, and during my office hours. They can also email me with their questions or request materials.
4.Could David be assigned a buddy in class to check in with when he has forgotten assignments? Are reading texts brought home?
I cannot assign David a “buddy.” David is responsible for his own learning. However, David can self-select a buddy in class who is willing to help him.
Most reading of shorter pieces is done in class. However, when we read novels, the book will be checked out to David, and he will be required to do most of this reading at home. However, I do provide some in-class reading time for students as well.
5. What are David’s strengths in your class? Is he participating? Does he need to take notes to study from or are handouts and outlines given?
David has done fairly well with the Speaking/Listening activities so far. However, he is clearly struggling with some of the reading. He also has not consistently completed and submitted assignments. For example, so far he has not turned in the guided reading for the first four chapters of Siddhartha. In addition, he is also missing his Workshop Record for his Evaluate/Judge essay. He needs to take notes for many activities, but I have also provided students with handouts/organizers as well.
6. What can David do in order to raise his grades in your class?
David can make up missing work for full credit. If the work is submitted to his Google folder late, he should email me to let me know he has submitted it and ask that I assess it. I will send him an email in return when the work has been graded and updated in IC.
7 David has said that, in some cases, quizzes/ tests consist of a few essay questions and that missing one might lower his score by a whole letter grade. Provided he does the readings thoroughly is there an alternative method of evaluating his understanding of the material and themes? Or Does he need extra time to answer the essay questions?
David’s first reading quiz was comprised of five multiple choice questions about the story. All reading tests are open book, open note. He missed three of the five questions. Students were given an opportunity to correct their missed items by re-reading the story, making new selections, and justifying their new selections in a short-constructed response. David successfully corrected one of the three items, so his grade improved from a failing grade to a 60 percent. He will have many additional opportunities to demonstrate his reading comprehension going forward.
8. David could be much more proactive about his learning in your class. You offer a number of ways for kids to improve grades and seek help. What would you expect David to be doing to raise his grade to reflect his true ability ( A or B level)? How can Julie and I help both you and David?
David should consistently complete and turn in assignments, take advantage of opportunities to revise non-proficient work, ask questions in class, take notes, and see me during TAP/Period 8 when necessary. You and Julie can help by reinforcing with David that he is responsible for his own learning. It is up to him to be engaged in class, complete his assignments, turn them in consistently and on time, make up missing work/late work in a timely manner, and take advantages of all opportunities to redo/improve his work when it is not satisfactory.
Looking forward to talking with you,
Hint for teachers
Final note form Seth – I love this correspondence. The one thing the teacher could do that would make his life easier as well as the student’s and parents is (see #1 & #3) to have assignments clearly articulated online. Many teachers do this and it makes a world of difference. It may seem like extra work to teachers, but it saves everyone a lot of trouble. It completely eliminates ambiguity; parents, teachers and students are all on the same page because the teacher has clarified online what the assignment is, when it’s due, how it’s to be done, pdf, etc..
Hint for parents
Please understand that the teacher might have well over 100 students. Teachers get a LOT of email. This teacher took a good bit of time to respond thoughtfully, and he probably had to do some research in the gradebook to support his responses (see 7). Therefore, keep them as short and relevant as possible. Again, make it as easy as possible for the teacher to respond.
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