Before you turn in the key to your classroom door and head out into the sun for the summer, there are three courageous questions you might want to ask parents at the end of this year.
Asking can be as easy as sending a quick email or putting an online survey together, but if you have the time and the ambition, give them a call. These questions are that important, and the answers you receive will serve you well into the future. Calling up the courage and making the time to ask them will let your students and their families know how much they matter to you, too.
3 Courageous Questions for Closing Out the Year
1. How could I have built an even better relationship with your child or with you this year?
2. Which parts of the year were most memorable for your child? For you? How did they leave everyone feeling? What’s most important for me to know about this?
3. As I’m planning to teach a new group of learners next year, I’m eager to know where I can make improvements. If your child ruled my world, what would we learn? How would we learn it? How can I make next year’s experience more rewarding for all?
The Uncomfortable Truth
Consider sharing these questions at the start of next school year.
Are you daunted by the idea of pitching these questions to parents? I certainly was when I asked them myself, and I continue to be every time I reach out to students and parents for their feedback.
I also imagine that parents freeze up a bit in the face of questions like these too, especially if they aren’t asked for their input very often.
We’re trained to be congenial, and we often confuse this with kindness. As I’ve risked asking for feedback more and more often in recent years, I’ve felt my own perceptions about it changing significantly. It becomes far less scary. This takes time, though.
So, how can you increase everyone’s comfort level?
- Share the questions you want to ask parents with your students first.
- Give them to reflect on them, and then encourage them to start these conversations with their parents.
- Consider sending the questions electronically and giving parents the summer to think on them and discuss them with their children.
- Send the questions home with students during the final weeks of school with a brief note preparing parents for your survey or your call. They’ll be better prepared to provide you feedback.
- Don’t expect every parent to respond, and don’t assume that the lack of response is an indication of apathy. Even if parents are uncomfortable engaging with you around these questions, the mere act of asking them will likely create a bit of buzz at home and some quiet reflection about learning, teaching, and relationships.
- Consider sharing these questions at the start of next school year, perhaps at Open House or conferences. Let parents and students know that you’ll be asking them to respond to them at year’s end.
- Think about asking them sooner, though. They matter.
Let Us Know How it Goes
If you’re courageous enough to take the leap and make the call or send the survey this summer, please come back and let me know how it goes. Everyone’s mileage will vary here, and I’d like to hear your stories from the road.
Also, are there other questions we should be asking? Please share them in our comment section below.
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A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.